Readings: Rom. 12. 4-8; 2 Tim. 2. 1-22
WE HAVE CONSIDERED THE GIFTS of the Holy Spirit to the Church in ministering God’s Word, i.e. teachers, pastors and evangelists, individual gifts of faith, knowledge and wisdom, and the administrative gifts of bishops and deacons. As believers we have received the Holy Spirit and according to Scripture we are saints and priests every one of us as part of our standing in Christ.
To what practical use can these gifts be put so that God’s purpose is worked out?
Ministry is not only oral but extends to helping the saints in any way. Indeed a narrow conception of ministry as only carried on from a platform or pulpit can have very serious results. What arc we to think of a brother who is very anxious to be heard in a meeting but who slights his brethren as individuals? Has such a one a real heart for his brethren’s welfare? We need to watch ourselves for the flesh deceives its owner before anyone else.
It is as we realize that we are members one of another that we understand the need to follow our own calling, running the race with patience, Heb. 12. 1, and not wandering aimlessly as busybodies, 1 Tim. 5. 13. One of the greatest things about Paul was his purpose. It was the secret with Daniel who purposed in his heart not to defile himself when a young man. To cease from running in the way of God’s will means to walk, stand or sit like the man in Psalm 1 who forfeited the Lord’s blessing. The power of unity is becoming increasingly realized by men who form unions of nations or armies, unions of masters and servants and ever-multiplying business combines. God willed and still wills that His people should work together in unity. Had that unity been maintained from the beginning what an overwhelming power the Church would have been! Unity even among those who sought to carry out New Testament principles in the last hundred years in this country would have had a tremendous impact spiritually and morally upon the nation. Let us strive not for self but for the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Teaching and exhortation are not the same. Paul was more a teacher, Barnabas more an exhorter. The latter gift applies in a practical manner the teaching which is theory, perfectly good but to be applied. Both are needed, Rom. 12. 7, 8. Giving is a gift too as God supplies His servants with the means to give of their substance, their time, their strength, their learning. Even mercy is a gift and a gracious blessing it can be. To rule is to exercise a gift and the Church is bound to give double honour to those who rule well and as it were treble honour if they minister the Word, particularly doctrine, 1 Tim. 5. 17. Some of the latter can be very unpalatable at times but God’s faithful servants, far from being criticized, should be especially esteemed. They, perhaps, single-handed like many an Old Testament hero may stem a serious incursion of doubtful practices ruining the testimony in the long run. The elder brethren need our prayers and our recognition. As shepherds they feed the flock, as guides they guard and direct in right paths. It has been well said that an assembly is what its elders are. Their clothing is not to be gorgeous vestments as seen in some ecclesiastical circles but humility (the figure is the apron used by a slave). Such receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away, 1 Pet. 5. 1-5.
Many illustrations of Christian service can be found, those in 2 Tim. 2 are especially helpful. Service requires strength and grace to be truly effective, and to be kept up through the years means that runners, as in the Olympic Games, must pass on the torch to other faithful men. This is the true apostolic succession.
Soldiers have to be ‘tough’ as one says nowadays. The Christian cannot afford to take life easy. The soldier’s life has many parallels for the believer. Up early in the morning, regular devotions (spiritual exercises), witnessing in public (on parade), exercising one’s gift (field operations), obedient in all things (King’s or Queen’s Regulations), fighting the good fight, loving the appearing of the King and so having a crown of righteousness (victorious in battle, decorated by the King in person). (2 Tim. 4. 5-8 – Paul’s last words.)
Husbandmen have to get themselves and then give out. Theology (for want of a better word) is one of the most difficult studies; that should be borne in mind. It requires the whole spirit, soul, mind and a healthy body to devote oneself to the study of the things of God for long periods in order to become really useful. There are, of course, degrees of what is possible for one or for another, but to become really proficient there is much toil and labour to be spent. The Lord Himself was thirty years in preparation for about three years’ public ministry. John the Baptist only ministered six months; the desert was his training ground, alone with God. The husbandman sows the seed, so should we. God gives the harvest. The seed dies, so should we. We live through Him and bear fruit in its season. The winter snows and storms try the growing plants but when the summer arrives they are strong, mature, fruitful. If we suffer with Him we shall also reign with Him.
A workman has to know and use his tools. He must rightly divide the word of truth – gentle and simple milk to the young and weak – strong meat for those of full age, honey for the mature saint, 1 Pet. 2.2; Heb. 5.14; Ps. 119.103. He must not waste his Master’s time quibbling about matters of no moment.
A vessel to be useful must first be cleansed meet for use. We must be emptied and Christ filled. The Spirit’s filling should be sought regularly and our bodies presented as a living sacrifice which is our reasonable service, Rom. 12. 1 (spiritual worship R.V. margin).
May God help us all to be ‘helps’ in His service for His glory till He come.