Gifts, Ministries & Callings…oh my!
After establishing these fundamentals, Paul breaks down into three categories, what Christians often lump all together as “gifts”. I have highlighted the three terms with their Strong’s Concordance numbers so you can easily see that all three, are different words.
You may already notice that the three words used in the King James version are NOT the same words I used as the heading of this segment of the article. That was on purpose!
While nearly every Christian denomination is aware of the term “gifts” in one capacity or another (a.k.a. spiritual gifts, grace gifts, gifts of grace…etc.) it is rare indeed to hear the terms “administrations” and “operations”. For these words we have substituted the English words Ministries & Callings, respectively.
These three graces proceed, each one, out of a representative of each member of the Godhead.
- Gifts come from the Spirit of God
- Administrations (ministries) come from the Lord Jesus as head of the church.
- Operations (callings) are the workings of the Father.
Verses 4-6 offer an outline for the progression of the rest of the chapter. Starting in the very next verse, Paul starts with a description of the gifts given by the Spirit.
Next in verse 12 Paul begins to talk about the body and the function and location of it’s parts as arranged by the Lord Jesus. Here Paul is using the body and it’s parts as a metaphor for administrations (or ministries) from the Lord.
Then finally, beginning in verse 28, Paul gives a descriptive introduction (though not comprehensive) to the Operations (or callings) of the Father.
So like Paul we will begin with the gifts of the spirit.
Differing Gift, but the same Spirit
Let’s look at the verse and then we will draw out some of the things it says.
“But to each of us a manifestation of the Spirit has been granted for the common good. (8) To one the utterance of wisdom has been granted through the Spirit; to another the utterance of knowledge in accordance with the will of the same Spirit; (9) to a third man, by means of the same Spirit, special faith; to another various gifts of healing, by means of the one Spirit; (10) to another the exercise of miraculous powers; to another the gift of prophecy; to another the power of discriminating between prophetic utterances; to another varieties of the gift of ‘tongues;’ to another the interpretation of tongues. (11) But these results are all brought about by one and the same Spirit, who bestows His gifts upon each of us in accordance with His Own will.”
It is not in the goal of this article to give a definition and example of every gift mentioned above. It is important however to note that NOWHERE does Paul claim that the above is a comprehensive list. In fact, we know for certain that more of these “gifts” mentioned in Romans 12, with some overlap occurring. Some denominations have created unnecessary grief by being dogmatic about these lists being the only gifts given by the Spirit. While I do not condone going beyond scripture, neither do I advocate claiming something as comprehensive when we can point to other lists in the scriptures concerning gifts but which are decidedly different. I think that this was intentional in order to keep us from placing the Spirit of God in a box. One thing however, is for certain…If some manifestation IS truly a gift of the Spirit – it will ALWAYS point to Christ Jesus and never say about Him something contrary to scripture!
Now, the underlined sections tell us A LOT about gifts. I will simply make a list of them by way of bullet point below.
- Every BELIEVER HAS a gift.
- Gifts are a manifestation of the Holy Spirit.
- It is granted to us by His favor – it CANNOT be earned or drummed up.
- Gifts are NEVER for personal benefit or attention, but for the common good.
- All gifts are given by the will of the Spirit of God ALONE – you cannot earn it, merit it, force it to happen…etc. In short if the Spirit doesn’t will it – and you do it, you are lying against the Spirit and putting words in His mouth and your personal actions to His credit. WE SHOULD BE VERY CAREFUL TO AVOID THIS!!!!
The last few things I will say about these gifts are VERY important and are largely addressed by Paul in the chapters 12-14.
- We are encouraged to desire spiritual gifts but not to PURSUE them. We purse love, we only desire spiritual gifts.
- LOVE for Christ FIRST and our siblings in Christ second must ALWAYS be our motivation behind desiring the gifts. Many people find MUCH identity and prestige in flowing in the gifts. We are told AT LENGTH in chapters 13 & 14 of 1 Corinthians that this is ungodly and unprofitable behavior.
- All manifestations of the Spirit are for the edification, exhortation and comfort of the body – they are NOT for you as the one through whom the gift is flowing. The gifts the Spirit give to you are ALWAYS about others – never about you.
- Some gifts are better than others. Paul points out Prophecy as chief since it is a clear and unambiguous revelation of Christ. This does not mean that the other gifts are somehow less important. The most important gift is the one the Spirit chooses to use at the moment. HE KNOWS BEST!
- Your identity as a child of God is in Him – NOT in your giftedness. It is a dangerous thing to seek for your identity in your gift.
- Do NOT mistake gifts for maturity. The Corinthian church excelled in the gifts yet they were the most carnal church mentioned in the letters of Paul.
- If it is a true gift of the Spirit, your eyes will not be drawn to man but to Christ Jesus!
Different Administrations (Ministries), but the Lord
This second category is far more nebulas. It is concerned with the where, when, how and to whom questions.
For example, Paul was an Apostle (which is a Operation or calling), he had a gift for teaching and prophecy but his “administration” or “ministry” was to the Gentiles in a ver specific area of the world.
“For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry“
Paul here reveals that he is called to BE an apostle (not have a gift of apostleship), but he was called TO THE GENTILES which was his MINISTRY.
Borrowing from Paul’s body example, let’s call Paul a foot since he was “sent” to the Gentiles. As a foot, his place was not on the end of the arm, but the end of the leg. It was not to be pointing backwards, but forwards. Of course as in any analogy the metaphor will break down if you take it beyond it’s intended scope. When Paul made use of this analogy in describing ministries, his stated goal was to confer a sense of location, function and equality of importance.
Feet not only have an important function, they also have a specified location where they belong and are no less important than an ear or a hand.
Paul addresses equlity from two points of view. They are illustrated in verses 15 and 21.
vs. 15 “If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body?”
Here Paul addresses personal value. No member of the body should say something like, “Because I am a cahier clerk and not a pastor I am not really a viable, valued member of the body!” This is NOT true! Each member of the body has a location, a function and an importance that is equal in value!
vs. 21 “And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
Here Paul addresses pride. No member is more important than another and therefore, no member can claim to be seeing clearly if they look down on and devalue another member of Christ’s body.
It is wrong thinking to a Christian to decide for themselves where they should live, and what they “want” to do, and yet, in our day, pursuing one’s personal dreams is taught from the pulpit as if it were lifted directly from the scriptures.
If Paul had pursued his desires, he would have gone to no one but the Jews. God however, specifically called him the the gentiles. Furthermore, God called him to specific gentile regions – not to the whole world. This is a very important and key issue of stewardship. God delegates authority and if we fail to take the charge of what has been given us or if we over stretch our reach into areas God did not call us to – we are in danger of being poor stewards.
These verses in 2 Corinthains illustrate this nicely.
“(13) We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us — a sphere which especially includes you. (14) For we are not overextending ourselves (as though our authority did not extend to you), for it was to you that we came with the gospel of Christ; (15) not boasting of things beyond measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but having hope, that as your faith is increased, we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere, (16) to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s sphere of accomplishment.”
Different Operations (Callings), but the God
This is perhaps the most misunderstood category of all of them but it doesn’t have to be.
The word “operations” is ἐνέργημα enérgēma. Like the word charisma we talked about at the beginning of my article on God’s Grace and Spiritual Gifts, this is a compound word. The first part of the word enérgē is a noun meaning effect or working. When the suffix -ma is added the word means the result or effect of energy. So in context, God has placed in the body certain people who are energized by God’s grace to cause an effect or a desired result. One way to describe them, is they are placed in the body to stir up the body towards activity, while they themselves are stirred inwardly directly by God. This IS God’s order of things and it is a doctrine which is VERY unpopular in Christian pop culture today. “Everyone is a priest” is the motto, without ever looking up the context and intended meaning of those words as they are used in the scriptures. The notion of the priesthood of all believers is one only passingly mentioned in scripture and is only has a very limited scope. however, it has been used out of context to indicate that people in the body do not need spiritual leadership and that Pastors are at worst unnecessary and at best optional. THIS IS NOT scriptural in the least.
The people listed here in verse 28 are not a complete list. Again, more are listed in other places, but these are a few of them. Apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles…etc.
Paul uses some very specific wording here to make a point. When we were dealing with spiritual gifts, they are something every believer HAS. In this list, the gift IS the person, the person does not HAVE the gift.
Let’s look at verses 28-31 and see what we learn.
“(28) And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. (29) Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? (30) Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? (31) But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.”
As in other sections I have underlined key terms and I will comment on them below.
- These PEOPLE are appointed by God. They do not HAVE gifts – they ARE the gift to the church.
- The words “first”, “second”, “third” carry the meaning of order – NOT rank.
- For example…In an unevangelized area, the first people God sends to them are Apostles. The name itself means “send ones or messengers”. They are the FIRST to bring the gospel to an area. Second are prophets, who are sent in to encourage growth through edification, exhortation and comfort. Third are teachers who ground and deepen the roots of young Christians in the person and knowledge of Christ. This third group includes the “Pastor-teachers” mentioned in Ephesians 4.
- Notice Paul compares those who ARE gifts to those who HAVE gifts by asking the rhetorical questions “Are all” verses “do all have”? It is sort of like the animal – mammal concept we learned in biology class as children. All mammal are animals but not all animals are mammals. In our case here, EVERYONE in the body HAS a gift, but not everyone in the body IS a gift.
This thought of people being given as gifts is NOT a new one, nor is it even hard to find in scripture.
Historically God’s answers have nearly ALWAYS come in the form of people. When the fledgling line of the godly died in Abel, God answered with the birth of a baby, namely Seth – Gen. 4:15. When the world needed a deliverer from it’s impending destruction, God answered with the birth of a baby, namely Noah. When God desired a nation through which to bring the Messiah, God answered with the birth of a baby, namely Moses, who was given to and for the people of Israel. The many, MANY times Israel needed a deliverer from their captor-enemies, God answered with the birth of a baby, namely the judges (Gideon, Sampson, Jephthah, Jair…etc.).
An example which is somewhat closer in heart to the one we are looking at is the Old Testament priests. When Aaron, as High priest, needed aid in the work of the Tabernacle God answered by giving him his own sons as GIFTS – Numbers 18:1-6,
“(6) Behold, I Myself have taken your brethren the Levites from among the children of Israel; they are a gift to you, given by the LORD, to do the work of the tabernacle of meeting.”
So this statement of Paul is founded upon a great history of God giving people as answers and gifts. In this passage we see that God has appointed Apostles, Prophets, Teachers (including teachers who do the work of shepherding). In Ephesians 4 we are told that these are given to the body for the purposes of maturing the saints into the image of Christ and equipping them for the work of the ministry. They are the “operations” or “energies” of God – the ones God appoints to effect and cause His desired results in the body.
(12) FOR THE equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
(13) UNTIL WE ALL come to the unity of the faith AND of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;
Though I will love to go further into this here – it goes beyond my stated intentions for this article. Supplemental to this article are others which go into greater depth on the various topics of Gifts, Ministries and Callings.
I hope this teaching will challenge you and encourage you in your growth, placement in the body, your function in the body and your value as a Christian. If you do not know the Lord, I pray that you are encouraged to place your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
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