Relationship To The Church
“For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” (Romans 12:4-5)
After our relationship to God and our relationship to ourselves, the next relationship considered in this passage is that to the Church. While verses 9-16 also deal with our relationship to other believers, I have categorized verses 4-8 as the Christian’s relationship to the Body of Christ, or the Church as a whole. This has to do with how we function, not only within the particular congregation that we attend each Sunday, but as a member of the entire Body of the Lord Jesus.
The term office in the KJV might be misleading and is better rendered function or practice. It is not referring to pastors, Sunday School teachers, deacons, board members or other officers in a local church, but to every member of every church. This isn’t just about professional clergy, it’s about the special gifts and abilities which God has given to every single believer in the Body of Christ. Again, we are reminded of the statement that we have just read back in verse 3, that is, that every believer must think soberly about who he is. He who has the more “visible” gifts must not become prideful or puffed-up, neither should the one who has the less visible gifts become envious. There exists a real danger of pride and envy corrupting the service of God’s people and we all must be on the guard against such temptations.
“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; 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 12:6-8)
Instead of being arrogant about the gift of service that God has given us, or being jealous of the gift that God has given someone else, we are told that each of us within the Body is gifted with differing gifts according to the grace of God. According to who we are? Or how much talent or education we possess? Or according to how intelligent or popular within the church we are? No. According to the grace of God. The Lord does not call people to service based on man’s criteria, but based on His own unsearchable purposes. Just as His grace was unwarranted, unmerited, and unearned when we were given the gift of Salvation in Jesus Christ, so is God’s grace unearned in the distribution of spiritual gifts of service. We ought to cultivate and exercise our gifts, making them as effective as we possibly can; but the gifts themselves are given based solely on God’s plans, not our own.
All gifts are to be exercised according to the proportion of faith. He that has the gift of giving should do so with simplicity. In other words, his intentions must not be convoluted with his own self-interests. Exercising the spiritual gift of giving must never be done for the purpose of self-gain or recognition, no, these motives corrupt the purity with which God intends this gift to be expressed. Giving is to be done generously, liberally, and out of love for the Lord and His people.
Those who have been placed under authority within the Church (“he that ruleth”) must do so diligently. The temptation exists for those who lead to become lazy or to procrastinate because many times they are not accountable to a human boss or supervisor. I remember reading about how many young men were drawn into professional ministry in the 1800’s because it was one of the few real “white collar” jobs in those days where a man could work without getting his hands dirty. The idea that a church pastor could essentially write his own schedule and spend a great deal of his time between Sunday services in idle relaxation appealed to many prospective college students entering the workforce back then and, consequently, countless droves of men with absolutely no real calling from God flocked into seminaries (of course, the Nineteenth Century also saw a proliferation of some of the greatest preachers ever to set foot in a pulpit; men who worked tirelessly in the Lord’s service). People called into Christian leadership should always remember that they are accountable to the Lord for how they spend their time and, while God does not expect them to burn themselves out, He does expect them to be busy about the Father’s business.
Those with the gift of mercy are urged to so with cheerfulness. To serve others, care for the sick, visit the homebound, run errands for the disabled; these are all expressions of Christian mercy and should never be carried out begrudgingly. Perhaps this gift is the rarest on the entire list because it definitely takes a special grace to patiently give of our own time and energies in order to ease the difficulties of others. To take another’s burdens and bear them yourself is the most demanding type of sacrifice that can be made. It is also that type of service which most closely resembles the pure and holy ministry that our Lord Himself performed during His earthly life. Not only must the person with the gift of mercy serve others patiently and without discontent, but they must do so joyfully. The merciful are not implored to endure the service they perform or to tolerate it, but to do so with cheerfulness. The word literally means to do so with hilarity or great joy of heart. The burdens we bear for others may not bring us much happiness, in fact, they might bring us great inconvenience and hardship. But we should bear in mind that what we do for the Lord’s people we are actually doing for Him (cf. Matt. 25:40). The privilege of pleasing the Lord should bring us joy immeasurable.
He that teaches should teach. He that exhorts should exhort. We are called to exercise the gifts that God has given according to the proportion of faith we have been given. And we should be contented to operate in that particular area wherein we have been called. Not every preacher will have a ministry like Billy Graham, or Charles Spurgeon, or Dwight Moody. Not every Bible teacher will reach millions like Charles Stanley, or J. Vernon McGee, or John MacArthur. But it is not the size or visibility of our service that counts, only our faithfulness to complete the tasks which the Lord has assigned us personally. Remember, although one servant in the parable was given 5 talents and another was only given 2, both were entrusted according to their ability and their rewards for faithful service were the same (Matt. 25:14-23). God has only asked each of us to trust Him and use what He has given us for His glory and service. If we do this, we are good and faithful servants.
In writing to the Church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul went into much more detail about the exercise of spiritual gifts than he did here in Romans. And in that epistle he demonstrated the illogical nature of becoming envious of the prominence of someone else’s spiritual gift:
“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:13-20)
God has called each of us into a particular, special service that He intended for only us to fulfill. Though each of His spiritual gifts are different, their purpose and intention is the same: to glorify Him. Heaven will be filled with countless people whose names the world has never heard, yet who will be rewarded and given a place of honor next to some of the most famous and prominent giants of the Faith. They are people who served the Lord diligently, faithfully, cheerfully, tirelessly, and to the best of the ability that God gave them. Whether they were preaching the Gospel to crowds of thousands, serving as missionaries to an aboriginal tribe, or maybe just sweeping the floors at a small country church; each of these people have served the Lord in a way that is equally valued by the Master.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,