You will need your Bible beside you as we consider the truths concerning the Gifts of Grace within the local church. The questions we want to find answers to are:
- How do I know if I have a gift?
- How will I know what my gift is?
- How can I develop my gift?
- When will I be able to exercise my gift?
- Are there responsibilities associated with gift?
- What if I didnt get the gift I wanted?
Four passages give us the Scriptural answers: Romans 12:3-8, 1 Cor 12:1-31, Ephesians 4:7-16, and 1Peter 4:10-11.
How do I know if I have a gift?
We immediately see the answer to the first question for all the passages tell us that gift is universal; every believer has been given at least one gift to be used for the mutual benefit of the church! As God has dealt to every one the measure of faith (Rom 12:3). But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every one for mutual profit (1Cor 12:7). But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ (Eph 4:7). As every one has received gift (1 Peter 4:10).
How will I know what my gift is?
The most helpful answer to this question is that the three-fold test of gift is Fervor, Faculty, and Fruit. Is there an area of local church life where you, for example, have a particular burden? Is there a burning desire placed there by the Holy Spirit? In this area for which you are burdened, is there any ability, given by God, to do it? Do the other believers recognize your gift in that particular work? A person is never a judge of his own gift or ministry, and if the gift is not recognized by others it is perhaps not a gift. The God-given ability to function in the area of ones fervor is what we mean by faculty. Are others encouraged and blessed when you function within the sphere of your exercise? This is what we mean by fruit. It will be critical to know our gift, for Peter has written that we are to be good stewards of the manifold grace of God. How can one be a steward of something if he does not know what it is?
How can I develop my gift?
This third question causes us to stop and realize that very often the reason for gift not being developed is that the believer is in a system that does not permit the exercise of the priesthood of all believers. I Corinthians 12 presents a picture of a local company that comes behind in no gift. When we look carefully at 1Corinthians 12:4_6 we see the working of a Triune God; in that passage there is a dividing and dispensing of gifts by the Spirit. If one is in a scripturally-functioning company, there will be room for the functioning of gift and it is only in this functioning that there will be development. The young believer who will develop in the things of God publicly must give himself privately to God and to His Word. His worship will be weighty. His public prayer will be an evidence of time spent alone with God. His contributions in the Bible readings will be the product of diligent study of the Scriptures. His gospel messages will be simple but will not be simplistic for they will be evidence of hours spent with the Word. His growth and development will be readily seen. Overseers in assemblies have a great responsibility in this development of gift. When we do a careful study of Ephesians 4:11-16 we see that the pastor-teachers were not given so that they would do all the ministering! They were given for the equipping of the saints, for the work of service, for the edifying of the Body of Christ. They were given not to do all the ministering but that they should be developing others to minister. Evangelists, also, would greatly add to the future of the work of God if in the summer season they chose as a partner a young man who has a heart and some potential gift in the gospel. In an assembly gospel series an evangelist who comes alone and shares the series with local brethren who are available to participate in the work and who are open to coaching will also be investing in the future of the assemblies. It is important to ask, Am I equipping anyone for service?
When will I be able to exercise my gift?
Can we give the nebulous answer, That depends? Clearly some gifts can be exercised while the person is young. Others will require maturity and growth. The Lord Jesus at the age of twelve sat in the midst of the teachers but did not teach the teachers. He Who is the Architect of the Universe was listening to them and asking them questions. A young person may be asked to give a short word in the gospel. Participating in worship at the Breaking of Bread is not a gift, nor is praying at the prayer meeting. However, taking part in a brief way would be a start in getting accustomed to public participation. If one is in touch with God, it will be recognized by spiritual overseers. If one begins in a childrens work, the response of the children will tell you if you have a public gift. Of course there are gifts that are not public.
Are there responsibilities associated with gift?
We have seen already from 1 Peter 4:10-11 that each person is a steward of the gifts he has received. Stewardship always comes with responsibility. Moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful (1Cor 4:2). When we read the parable of the steward in Matt 24:45-51 we see words that show responsibility, return, and reward. Blessed is that servant whom his lord when He cometh shall find so doing. So doing! He is functioning! Not only is he functioning, but he is functioning in the appointed sphere! He is anticipating the return of the lord. He is giving food to the household. He is serving, and this is the reason why gift has been given. It is given for the benefit of others and should be carried out in the manner of Him Who came not to be served but to serve.
What if I dont get the gift I want?
One of the biggest difficulties in local churches is people trying to function in a sphere for which they are not fitted. As we meditate on 1 Cor 12:1-31, we learn that we must accept the sovereignty of the Spirit in giving us the gifts He has, in divine wisdom, chosen for us to have. We should be impressed by the words, dividing to every man severally as He will, for this shows us that the Spirit acts in a sovereign way even as the Lord acted in a sovereign way as He chose the twelve and called them into His service. It is easy to see some of the lessons that the Spirit is teaching us in His use of the analogy of the human body. First, as mentioned, we see sovereignty for God has set the members in the human body as it has pleased Him (12:18). We must note the expression, Now ye are body of Christ, and members in particular. Why this analogy? What are the lessons to be learned? As we read the passage over and over again to digest its significance, we learn that in that company that is called body of Christ, there is no room for self-will, self-pity, self-exaltation, selfishness, or self-centeredness. There cannot be independence, irresponsibility, or indifference. There cannot be complacency. There must be the same care for one another. There can be no schism for it is body. We could summarize as follows: I have received I am responsible I will be rewarded at His return.