Chapter # 12 Paragraph # 2 Study # 4
March 9, 2010
6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
8 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.
1901 ASV Translation:
6 And having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith;
7 or ministry, let us give ourselves to our ministry; or he that teacheth, to his teaching;
8 or he that exhorteth, to his exhorting: he that giveth, let him do it with liberality; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness.
- I. Paul's Focus Upon Ministry.
- A. He prefaced the exhortations in 12:6-8 with his declaration that those in Christ are a part of a "body" that has multiple "parts" and each "part" has a specific "praxis" (12:4; variously translated as "office", "function", "deeds"). Matthew recorded that Jesus taught that the Son of Man will "judge" each person according to the standards established by the parameters of this "praxis" (Matthew 16:27). Afterward, Paul declared that the "praxis" of the flesh has to be killed (Romans 8:13 and Colossians 3:9) and that this "mortifying" is "by the Spirit". By making this declaration, he inserted a new and different "praxis": that which is of the Holy Spirit.
- 1. The parameters of this "praxis", if they are to be the standards by which eternity is determined for us, are critical indeed.
- a. First, this "praxis" must be "Spiritual" (Romans 8:13 and Galatians 5:16, et. al.).
- b. Second, this "praxis" must be "top priority" (1 Peter 4:10 and 1 Corinthians 4:2).
- c. Third, this "praxis" must be the result of the combination of "Word", "Love", "Faith", and "Activity" without mitigation of any of these four.
- 2. This "praxis" fundamentally grasps the issues of "The Body".
- a. Only God rises higher on the priority scheme than "The Body".
- b. "The Body" trumps every other "interest": satisfaction, security, or status.
- B. In the text before us, Paul's opening gambit is a shift from "praxis" to "charismata". By this shift Paul enhances the understanding of his readers.
- 1. The "praxis" is "how a person implements his/her fundamental commitment". It was used because Paul called for such a fundamental commitment in 12:1-2. With this term Paul cleared the deck of "activities in which a person might be involved" and set up a "central controlling arbiter of those activities": the "fundamental commitment". Being "committed" in the form of 12:1-2 obviously means being "committed" to the specific "praxis" involved in fidelity to God. That God, in His plan, devised a "multiple part body" (so that each individual would have a "place" in that body that automatically includes a "praxis" according to the part's contribution to the body's identity and function), means that any commitment to God is a commitment to His plan and its unfolding. Thus, his use of "praxis".
- 2. The shift to "charismata".
- a. The word is used by Paul for several reasons.
- 1) The "charis" part of the word is Paul's most crucial emphasis because it is used in 12:3a and described in 12:3c and then shows up in dual form here in 12:6a (the "charismata" is "according to the 'charis' given") and, finally, is reiterated in 12:6c in the phrase, "according to the proportion of faith" as an echo of 12:3c.
- 2) Additionally, the "charis" part of the word signals a "divine input" that has nothing to do with the recipient's "qualifications" as measured by the standard of his "flesh". The "charis" part of the word refers to "grace" in its nature as "undeserved" (Romans 5:15-16).
- 3) Also, this "charis" element of the word signals a pervasive reality in regard to the "Body of Christ": the Spirit sovereignly determines who is placed where in the body with no regard for anything other than His own wisdom and sovereign choice (1 Corinthians 7:7 and 12:9). The positions cannot be "lobbied" (Matthew 20:23), nor will God alter His decisions in regard to them (Romans 11:29).
- 4) The entire point of a "charismata" being the essence of a "praxis" is that when one "presents himself/herself to God as a 'sacrifice'", there is no continuation of the self-determination that marks all who do not make the presentation.
- b. The shift is an effort to clarify the most fundamental element of the "praxis": the direct involvement of the Holy Spirit.
- 1) It is, as we have already pointed out, the Spirit's power that has to be used to "mortify the competing praxis of the flesh (Romans 8:13).
- a) The bug-a-boo here is the "problem" that the vast majority of believers have with the doctrine of "a walk by the Spirit". The question is this: exactly what constitutes the methodology of such a walk?"
- b) That a person is "walking by the Spirit" is not difficult to discern for the simple reason that the "power" is obvious.
- c) But, the real question is how a believer taps into that obvious power. It is one thing to "say" that a "walk by the Spirit" will "mortify the praxis of the flesh" as Paul "said" (Galatians 5:16); it is altogether another thing to have a profound element of the "flesh" defeated "by the Spirit". For example, let us suppose a situation in which a "believer" gets under the dominion of a potent drug (becomes what our culture calls "a drug addict") and ultimately determines that the continued use of that drug is an evil. By what method does that "believer" find "freedom"?
- i. The vast majority of "believers" will go into some form of "doubling down" (trying to focus a more determined effort).
- ii. But the biblical model of "grace" absolutely proscribes any such effort as "fleshly dependence upon human 'will-power'" that will only lead to "pride" if it is outwardly effective or "despair" if it is fruitless (Colossians 2:23).
- iii. However, the biblical model of "grace" also absolutely prescribes a conjunction of divine willingness and human trust (Luke 5:12 in contradiction to Mark 9:22- 23). And, as the text clearly says, a major problem is the divine "will". John was unhesitating in his declaration that "if we ask anything according to His will ... we shall have whatsoever we asked" (1 John 5:14-15). Thus arises what I have called the "major problem". How does one "find out" what the divine "will" is? This is the issue of the promise of Romans 12:2 where Paul flatly declared that the one who sacrifices his body to God will "prove" what that will is. There are two parts to this: on the one hand, there is the "Spiritual" guidance into an understanding of the true meaning of the biblical text (the Word provides many declarations of the "will of God"); and on the other hand, there is the "Spiritual" guidance into an understanding of the true implications of "unaddressed" particulars in daily living (where the Word does not speak, the Spirit yet gives guidance). Thus, "grace" provides for the one who believes. And, according to our text, even believing is not altogether left up to us.
- iv. But let me be as clear as I can be on a tangential point: all of the "failures" of the attempts to apply the Spirit's power to a person's particulars are the result of some form of human perversity, created by a witting or unwitting elevation of the human perversion of the nature of the Life and its Source. The "fault" of failure is never on God's part. Thus, any perceived "failure" must be examined for the presence of the Lovelessness that created it.
- 2) It is also a double-edged sword. Our participation in the post-judgment Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ is directly tied to, and enormously enhanced by, our walk in the Spirit. Alternatively, there is an enormous danger of severe restriction in respect to that participation if we "neglect our charismata" (1 Timothy 4:14) or "let our commitment wane' (2 Timothy 1:6) or "do not treat our charismata as a most fundamental stewardship" (1 Peter 4:10) over which we are to be held accountable (1 Corinthians 4:2).
- 3. The attendant focus upon our possession of "charismata" according to the standard of "charis" given to us.
- a. Contextually, the "grace given to us" is tied to Paul's humility-inducing declaration that it is God Who imparts to each who believe the "measure" of that "faith". In other words, Paul is still focused upon the fact that "believers" have differences between them that are marked not only by the "charismata" and "praxis" that have been extended to them by a sovereign God, but also by the "level" (measure) of "faith" that they find themselves able to exercise. What this means is this: a "charismata" will apply its "praxis" according to the measure of faith of the individual involved. If the "measure" is very large, the exercise of the charismata and praxis will be extensive; but, if the "measure" is relatively small, the exercise of the gifts and practice will be likewise -- relatively small.
- b. This is not to be seen as either a matter of despair, nor as an excuse to "walk away". The entire notion of a "sacrifice" is that one puts himself/herself entirely at God's disposal and accepts what He wishes. If He wishes nothing more than a relatively minor "bit" part from someone, that "loving" someone will gladly respond.