The human body is amazing; a demonstration of God’s kindness and creativity. The church body may be more amazing; a demonstration of God’s wisdom and power, plus His kindness and creativity (Which is harder, breathing life into molded dirt or uniting depraved and disparate parts into one who will work together, beside each other, all day long?). We might take either body for granted, and it’s easier when the body and her parts are healthy, working properly. Our physical bodies will be resurrected and glorified for eternity, and Christ’s body will be perfected in blamelessness and unity forever as well.
It’s all by grace. As the mercies of God motivate our individual renewal and proving of what’s good, so the grace of God teaches us how to think with right-thinking about ourselves, including how we are connected in Christ to other Christians and how not one of us has all the powers. Paul admonished sanity (verse 3), he introduced the analogy of membership (verses 4-5), and now he gives an application of usefulness for the spiritual gifts God has given by grace to the body (verses 6-8).
Gifts are like spiritual milk: they do the body good.
Having taught through 1 Corinthians 12, the first time Paul wrote about the body analogy and extended it into a list of gifts along with the reason for the gifts (to build up), I was definitely surprised at some low-level resistance to actually considering one’s own giftedness, and definitely to thinking about how God uses others. But both in the Corinthians and for the Romans, God’s Word through Paul aims to help us think about it correctly.
# The Reality of Gifts (Romans 12:6a)
There are three mind-renewing phrases before getting into the list of gifts, phrases all at the beginning of verse 6. The first part is Paul’s assumption of the reality of having received gifts from God.
> Having gifts…that differ
The grammar of verse 6 assumes a gift-giving *and* assumes our general stewardship for those gifts. God gave so we must use. Paul opens with a participle, “having gifts,” and the noun **gifts** is separated by six words from the adjective that modifies it, **differ**: “gifts — according to the grace given to us (that are) — different.” The NASB translates, “*Since* we have gifts that differ.” Paul doesn’t try to prove it, he accepts as true that we have the gifts.
**Gifts** is the word *charismata* (χαρίσματα), with the Greek word for grace (*charis*) built-in: so these are then “grace-gifts” or “gifts of grace” or “freely bestowed gifts.” The gifts **differ**, they are distinct, not the same, unlike in quality and in purpose/use, as we’ll see.
There isn’t any hint that only some have gifts. The thrust of the paragraph has been to *each*. This is how “everyone among you” should think, think “each according to the measure,” and “we, though many,” we are “individually members of one another.” And it’s this group, the *all of us*, that are the having ones.
# The Source of Gifts (Romans 12:6b)
The gifts were not requested by us.
> gifts that differ according to the grace given to us
“God has assigned” a measure of faith (verse 3), and God has given gifts by grace.
The voice of **given** is passive. God did the giving. The **given** also means not decided by us or taken by us. God is the one who chooses who gets what and how much. **Grace** is undeserved, and Peter called it “varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10), the same Greek word used to translate Joesph’s coat of “many colors.”
Gifts are given, discoverable, usable. Since we all have what we have by grace, there is no need for resentment or anxiety.
As a reminder from the body talk in 1 Corinthians 12: “There are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. Too each is given a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:6-7). “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11). “As it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as He chose” (1 Corinthians 12:18). “God has so composed the body” (1 Corinthians 12:24). “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed…” (1 Corinthians 12:27-28).
The fact that it’s by grace, not deserved, and that it’s been given, not decided by us, encourages humility and gratitude (to God and for others), both for what we have and *don’t* that others do.
> For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? (1 Corinthians 4:7 ESV)
# The Responsibility of Gifts (Romans 12:6c)
The ESV simply exhorts: **let us use them**.
> “*each of us is to exercise them accordingly*” (NASB)
The NASB puts the whole phrase in italics, which is good, because there is no main verb/imperative in the rest of the original language paragraph. The KJV added three imperatives, mixed into the list. But this is certainly implied. These gifts aren’t to be treasured behind glass, and certainly not buried (think Jesus’ parable of the talents). They must be *used*.
# The List of Gifts (Romans 12:6d-8)
This list is not exhaustive, but do take care when adding. One of our members recently visited a Bible study and met a woman with the spiritual gift of *scent*, and she said that she can smell rainbows. I can *see* rainbows, but I wouldn’t count that as the way I build up the church.
Rather than list body parts by name, such as arms and legs or hands and feet, the parts are described by function.
> if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:6–8 ESV)
Two broad categories: speaking and serving (as Peter summarizes in 1 Peter 4:11). If you’re speaking, do it according to God’s Word, if you’re serving, do it according to God’s strength.
**Prophecy** is a speaking of God’s Word, but I tend to think this is a gift that ended with the completion of the NT. Prophecy communicated revelation, not necessarily only about things in the future. Those with prophecy were gifted to speak God's Word into particular contexts. They made announcements, gave judgments, and their messages were to be tested (see 1 Corinthians 14). It was to be exercised **in proportion to our faith**, but it could be better understood as “according to the analogy of *the* faith.” or “agreeing unto the faith” (Tyndale).
**Service** translates the word *deaconian*, so ministry. Paul isn’t referring to the office of deacon here, but this general service means that you are gifted to work in an intermediary capacity. As in, if you see the need and can bring support from A to B, then do it.
**Teaching** is a transfer of “the faith,” and this would be especially important in a time pre-printing press and pre-podcast apps. To distinguish teaching from the next gift, teaching aims more toward the mind and understanding.
**Exhortation** is more conducive (make it happen) than cognitive, to encourage and even to comfort. Exhortation aims at the heart, the will, and for decision.
The next three have different modifiers. **The one who contributes** or *giving*, not so much in “generosity” (as the ESV), but in “simplicity,” with single purpose or single-minded, not “twofold” or duplicitous. There’s no outward show concealing an improper ambition. No strings attached, no hidden agenda.
**Leading** means to stand in front, to put forward, to go first. Jesus is the Head of the Body, but He ascended to the Father and gave men to represent Him. That includes those who manage and administrate, who “rule” (as elders do in 1 Timothy 5:17). Solomon once wrote about church bulletins: of the need to organize events there is no end, and many potlucks are a weariness of the flesh. That part is tongue in cheek, but there are many decisions to be made to lead the flock. And that leading is to be done with **zeal**, swiftness, with commitment and diligence.
**Mercy** is especially to the needy or hurting, and to do it with **cheerfulness** means that you’re doing it with low drama, without acting put out, not making the other feel that they are a burden.
We don’t need a spiritual gifts business card, nor to add our spiritual gift to our Twitter bio. We definitely don’t need to make excuses based on what gift we think we *don’t* have; worship and discipleship and loving one another are for *all*. And we can’t ever claim that we don’t need help from others; we are members of one another.
If you are in Christ, you are a member of His body. What is your part, is it working properly, is it building the body up (Ephesians 4:16)?
“God has so composed the body…that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:25–26 ESV) You have God’s Spirit, and to each has been given a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. “Everything” is not a spiritual gift, neither is “Nothing.” Do something good for the body.
> As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10–11, ESV)