BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness” (Rom 12:3-8 NKJV).
To unleash means to “set free, give a free rein to, allow to run free, allow to run riot, uncheck, unbridle, let loose, release.” It means to “to allow something, especially something previously held in check, to have its full effect” It also means to “set a person or animal free from a leash or other form of restraint or confinement.”
Verse 6 of the scripture above says, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them …” (NKJV). The word “differing” in this context means different. God likens the body of Christ to the human body which has many members (parts), and each member has different functions.
God’s plan for the church is not that she should have only one gift or two gifts. God has ordained that in each local assembly and the body of Christ, there will be variety of gifts because different functions are expected to be performed. No single gift can perform all the functions in an assembly or in the body of Christ.
Some reasons the different gifts in the church are not unleashed
1. Ignorance of members. Many people think that only certain individuals have spiritual gifts. Therefore, they put themselves down. Even when the gifts are trying to find expression in or through them, they’ll be restraining the manifestation. The saints need to be taught so that they would release the gift God has given them.
2. Fear. Some saints are afraid to use the gifts God has given them. Timothy appeared to be having problem with fear or timidity. Paul therefore wrote to him: “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:6-7 NKJV).
3. Wrong leadership style that muzzles the gifts within the assembly. This could be because of insecurity or ignorance on the part of the leadership. The leader must study the Bible well to know what it says about spiritual gifts and their operation in an assembly. No leader should feel threatened by the gifts fellow saints have and use. Every spiritual gift is for the benefit of others. We complete each other and one another; we’re not in competition. See how Jesus rebuked his disciples and encouraged individuals to use the gift given them by God. “Now John answered Him, saying, ‘Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side” (Mark 9:38-40 NKJV).
See a similar story in the Old Testament where Joshua, Moses’ assistant asked him to forbid Eldad and Medad who were prophesying in the camp apart from the other elders who were prophesying around the Tabernacle: “Then Moses said to him, ‘Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!’” (Num 11:29 NKJV)
Gifts and Grace
The Greek word for gifts in Rom 12:6 is charismata. The singular form is charisma (khar’-is-mah). It means among others “a (spiritual) endowment” and “miraculous faculty” (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary).
Charisma also means “a gift of grace; a favor which one receives without any merit of his own” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon).
Back to Rom 12:6: “Having then differing Gifts according to grace that is given to us, let us use them …” (NKJV). Take note that gifts and grace are mentioned in that scripture. There is a connection between grace and gifts. Since the word “gifts” means charismata, we can put it this way: “Having then differing Charismata according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them…” The New Century Version says, “We all have different gifts, each of which came because of the grace God gave us. The person who has the gift of prophecy should use that in agreement with the faith” (Rom 12:6). From that scripture, we understand that gifts come because of grace.
The Greek word for grace is charis. Even from the spelling of the word “charisma”, it’s evident there is a relationship between the two. You can’t write charisma/charismata without first writing charis. And from Rom 12:6, it is clear that there are no charismata without charis. Only those who have received charis are given charismata. Eph 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (NKJV).
Salvation comes by grace (charis). If you’ve not been saved by charis, you cannot receive charismata (gifts, spiritual endowment). “Having then differing Charismata according to the charis that is given to us, let us use them…” (Rom 12:6 NKJV). “We all have different gifts (charismata), each of which came because of the grace (charis) God gave us….” (Rom 12:6 The New Century Version). No charis, no charismata! However, grace (charis) is for the receiver, but gifts (charismata) are for the benefit of others.
Let us look at 1 Cor 12:27-31: “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. 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. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way” (NKJV).
In the scripture above, we see a variety of ministers God has appointed in the body of Christ, each having his place, but no single category of these ministers can do everything. If God knew apostles alone could do all, He wouldn’t have appointed the rest. The same applies to other categories of ministers listed in that passage. They are in the body to complement each other and one another. Therefore, there is the need for all to recognize what each can do and when to do it; and allow each to function where and when it is most appropriate. There should be no strife, envy or competition.
The Best Gifts
Verse 31 talks about coveting or desiring the best gifts. “But earnestly desire the best gifts” (NKJV). Please note that the word “gifts” is in plural. What are the best gifts? There have been debates about this. But my understanding is this: The best gifts are the most appropriate or most needed at a particular time and in any particular circumstance.
The New Living Translation presents the verse thus: “And in any event, you should desire the most helpful gifts” (1 Cor 12:31 NLT). That means no single gift will be helpful every time. There is no all-time best, most helpful gift. That’s why we cannot despise any gift, and we cannot say that a particular gift is the most helpful every time. We must allow every gift in an assembly or the body of Christ to flourish. 1 Thess 5:19-20 says “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies” (NKJV).
For example, see how the most appropriate and most helpful gift in Ezra 5 and 6 was prophecy. The building project, after about two years, was stopped for many years (about 17 years) in the days of Zerubabbel (Zerubabbel means begotten or born in Babylon), due to opposition and discouragement. It took prophecy to kickstart it for it to finish in four years. So prophecy was the best gift in that circumstance. Ezra 5:1-2 says, “Then the prophet Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophets, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. So Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak rose up and began to build the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them, helping them” (NKJV).
It is interesting that this scripture doesn’t say that the prophets of God only prophesied; it adds that the prophets were with them, helping them. Wonderful! This time the opposition couldn’t succeed in stopping the work. Ezra 6:14 says, “So the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they built and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the command of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia” (NKJV).
Equipping God’s people for ministry
Eph 4:11-13 is another scripture that talks about a variety of ministry gifts in the body of Christ. This is what this scripture says: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till 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” (NKJV). This is pulpit ministry. It is ministry to the believers; it is ministry to the body of Christ.
That verse says “And He Himself gave …” Jesus Christ, and not another person, gave the ministry gifts –apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers to the body of Christ. That was after His ascension to heaven. Jesus Christ gave, not that men chose. Heb 5:4 says, “And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was” (NKJV). The New Living Translation renders the verse thus: “And no one can become a high priest simply because he wants such an honor. He has to be called by God for this work, just as Aaron was” (Heb 5:4 NLT).
Back to Eph 4:11-14. That scripture again underscores the variety of gifts in the body of Christ. The head of the church, Jesus Christ, did not give to the body of Christ only apostles or only prophets or only evangelists, or only pastors and teachers. Jesus gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. He did that because He knew the work of ministry cannot be done by any of these categories of ministry gifts. No human body consists of only one part – there are different parts performing different functions.
But why did Jesus give this variety of ministry gifts to the body? “For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till 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” (verses 12-13).
These ministry gifts – apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers – are to equip the saints for the work of ministry and edify the body of Christ. “Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12 NLT). Please take note of the first part of their responsibility: equip God’s people to do his work, not to minister to God’s people to remain idle; and not to minister to God’s people to remain consumers but to be contributors. All believers are supposed to be ministers doing the work of ministry, not necessarily becoming preachers or holding ecclesiastical titles.
Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers should not be happy that they are doing the work of God alone; their major responsibility is to equip the people to be able to do God’s work, thereby increasing the Kingdom workforce. God is not looking for a pastor or prophet, who can do the work of three saints, and in the process suffers burnout. God is looking for one apostle, one pastor and teacher, one prophet, one evangelist who will equip twenty, fifty, one hundred, etc. Christians to do the work of ministry. The harvest indeed is plentiful, but the labourers are few (Matt 9:37; Luke 10:2).
All believers should be equipped to become Kingdom workers by using the spiritual gifts God has given them in addition to the great commission to win souls and disciple, baptize and teach those who believe in Him (Mark 16:15-18; Matt 28:19-20). That’s why we have the pulpit ministry, namely, Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers, and the helps ministry, complementing the pulpit ministry. One cannot do without the other for the Kingdom work to be effectively done as we see in Acts 6:2-4 when the stage was set for the choice of the first set of those to function in the helps ministry. “Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, ‘It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:2-4 NKJV).
Ministering as good stewards
1 Peter 4:10-11 says, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (NKJV).
Again, the word translated gift in this scripture is charisma, and the word translated grace is charis. As each one has received charisma, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold charis of God. Every charisma must be used not for vain glory but to the glory of God – “that in all things God may be glorified through” (verse 11).
Charisma: Ability to do certain things well
Let us go back to where we started, Rom 12:6-8, and read from another translation, the New Living Translation. “God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you. If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching. If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”
From this translation, we have another understanding of gift (charisma). It says it is “the ability to do certain things well”, given each of us by God. Because
God wants a situation where there will be people to perform different functions in an assembly or in the body of Christ. Therefore, He has given different people diverse abilities to be able to perform them. It is now the responsibility of the people so gifted to release what God has given them for the benefit of all. Failure to do that will create lack.
If God gives everybody the same gifts, there would be things to be done but there would not be believers with the requisite abilities (gifts) to do them. Those God has given abilities to perform certain functions and meet certain needs in the assembly or body of Christ must be found faithful to use their gifts. Remember that 1 Peter 4:10 says, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (NKJV). And what else does the Bile say about stewards? 1 Cor 4:2 says, “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (NKJV). Believers should be faithful in using their charismata (gifts) as good stewards of the manifold charis (grace) of God.
The goal of charismata
Let’s look at another relevant scripture, 1 Cor 14:26-33: “Well, my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize what I am saying. When you meet, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in an unknown language, while another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must be useful to all and build them up in the Lord. No more than two or three should speak in an unknown language. They must speak one at a time, and someone must be ready to interpret what they are saying. But if no one is present who can interpret, they must be silent in your church meeting and speak in tongues to God privately. Let two or three prophesy, and let the others evaluate what is said. But if someone is prophesying and another person receives a revelation from the Lord, the one who is speaking must stop. In this way, all who prophesy will have a turn to speak, one after the other, so that everyone will learn and be encouraged. Remember that people who prophesy are in control of their spirit and can wait their turn. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the other churches” (NLT).
Verse 26 of 1 Cor 14 clearly shows that God wants a multiple of gifts in the church, and not just one gift in operation. It says, “When you meet, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in an unknown language, while another will interpret what is said” (NLT).
Therefore, every local assembly should harness the various gifts within the congregation. Members should yield themselves to the Holy Spirit and allow the charismata that charis (Grace) has given them to be released; the charismata (gifts) should not be hindered. In a New Testament church, members must not be spectators or come for services only to receive ministration without ministering. Each saint must use his own gift and contribute to the success of the service as teachers, ushers, greeters, singers, intercessors, decorators, drama ministers, etc., functioning before, during or after the service.
The latter portion of verse 26 says, “But everything that is done must be useful to all and build them up in the Lord” (NLT). That tells us the goal of the operation of charismata. It is to be used to the benefit of others. We should use our gifts to the benefit of others (build them up) and to the glory of God. As I have said before, grace (charis) is for the receiver, but gifts (charismata) are for the benefits of others.
Orderliness in using gifts
Verses 27-33 of 1Cor 14 deal with orderliness in the use of multiple or various gifts in the assembly. This scripture forbids disorderliness in the use of our different charisma (gifts) in the local assembly or the body of Christ. God is not an author of confusion (1 Cor 14:33).
1 Cor 14:34-35 says, “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church” (NKJV). Does this scripture exclude women from charismata, which as we have seen charis (grace) gives? Since women are also saved by grace, are they discriminated against from partaking in charismata? No. Joel 2:28-29 says, “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days” (NKJV). This scripture was fulfilled in Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost.
So what is 1 Cor 14:34-35 talking about? Paul was addressing a particular situation in the Corinthian church where some women were becoming a problem, becoming disruptive. He had to write that they should be made to keep quiet. It is not a general rule for all assemblies. The general rule was that women could prophesy as much as men, as written in 1 Cor 11:5.
If 1 Cor 14:34-35 is wrongly interpreted to mean women cannot prophesy, then this scripture will be contradicting 1 Cor 11:5. But really, there is no contradiction. 1 Cor 11:5 is the general rule, while 1 Cor 14:34-35 is an exception. In actual fact, Acts 21:8-9 records that Philip the evangelist, one of the seven deacons, had four virgin daughters who prophesied. Even as far back as the Old Testament, Miriam, the sister of Moses, was called a prophetess (Exo 15:20). Deborah, the wife of Lappidoth, was also referred to as a prophetess (Judg 4:4). There is also in 2 Kings 22:14, Huldah the prophetess. Also, in Luke 2:36, the Bible refers to one Anna as a prophetess.
Everyone should use the gifts God has given him or her in faith. We must use our charismata (gifts) in humility. There should be no gender discrimination. Gal 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (NKJV). We must work hand-in-hand as members of the same body. There should be no schism.
“But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another” (1 Cor 12:24-25 NKJV).
If you’re not born again, I invite you to take the following steps: *Admit you’re a sinner and you can’t save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start to attend a Bible-believing, Bible -teaching church. There you will be taught how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I’m a sinner and I can’t save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent and confess my sins. I confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and surrender my life to him today. I invite Jesus into my heart today. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you’ve said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You’ll need to join a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church in your area where you’ll be taught how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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