Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.– Romans 12:8
So far we have covered the gifts of prophecy, ministry, teaching, and exhortation. There are other gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12. Now, in order to acquire the right interpretation of Scripture concerning gifts, we must rightly divide the Word of God. We have already seen many other times in our study of Romans 12 the similarities between this chapter and 1 Corinthians 12. We must recognize however that these chapters were written with two different purposes to two different churches.
The church at Corinth was a very carnal church. The church idolized preachers and struggled with discerning between right and wrong. The church at Corinth needed someone to teach them that allowing sinners to maintain fellowship in the church is a corrupted use of love and grace. The church at Corinth needed someone to teach them that everybody needs to be desiring after spiritual things, and everybody plays a vital role in the church – not just preachers.
The church at Rome on the other hand seems to not have had as difficult of a struggle with carnality. The nature of the epistle to the Roman church seems to indicate that this church was ready to receive deeper spiritual truth than the Corinthians were ready to receive. The Roman church needed to understand better how the plan of God works. It looks as if they were deficient in their knowledge of the will of God and the nature of God’s grace.
The context of the characteristics of these two books is important in understanding why Paul writes about the gifts to these two churches. Paul wanted the Corinthians to know that God has given spiritual gifts to EVERYBODY in the church to profit in their spiritual life. He wanted them to realize that EVERY Born-Again Believer needs to be focused on the spiritual growth. It is utterly immature and carnal for a Born-Again Believer to completely rely on a preacher for spiritual truth. We have many many churches no better off than the Corinthians! If you are saved, do you want spiritual knowledge? Well I have some news – YOU CAN HAVE IT IF YOU WANT IT! Do you want wisdom? IT IS THERE FOR YOU! Paul wanted the Romans to know that God has given gifts to everybody in the church display His grace. The fact that God has allowed US to be a part of HIS plan is overwhelming!
With this context in mind, I do not believe the second part of this verse EXPLICITLY describes spiritual gifts. This verse talks about giving, ruling, and showing mercy. We find out that there are indeed gifts of helps and governments in 1 Corinthians 12. Again, Paul wanted the Corinthians to focus on the ROLES people have in the church. In our passage, there is nothing that indicates Paul is talking explicitly about the gifts of giving, ruling, and showing mercy. Instead, Paul describes HOW to give, rule, and show mercy.
In 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 Paul explains that there are diversities of gifts, differences of administration, and diversities of operations. Gifts refer to what we have been talking about – grace imparted to the member of the church wherein, after submission to God’s will, GOD works in a special way through the member. Remember it’s not about talent or skill – it’s about submitting to HIS plan and letting God work through you. Administrations refer to ROLES of service – this can be the JOB of a pastor, teacher, etc… Operations refers to the activities that take place in the church which God works through. The acts of giving and showing mercy are operations. Ruling is an administration.
We will continue this thought tomorrow as we look at HOW giving, ruling, and shewing mercy should be handled in the church.