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 the Grace-Gifts.
A. His "selectivity".
1. As in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4, Paul does not give an exhaustive list of the "grace-gifts" in our current text.
2. There are two "conclusions" we can draw from Paul's "selectivity".
a. The Spirit Who guided Paul's writing may have intended for later students of the Bible to put the various texts about grace-gifts together to get a comprehensive and complete list of the gifts.
b. That Spirit may have simply used the grace-gifts that have been named in the Word of God as "samples" of the types of things He has gifted people to do.
3. It is highly unlikely that a comprehensive list has been given, or is even necessary. If it were necessary, it would have been given to each group that received instruction from the apostles. Clearly, the gifts do not have to be delineated in order for the church to properly function. Most of the books of the New Testament do not mention, or address the function of, these grace-gifts. So, what are we to conclude? The most likely conclusion is this: the Spirit will use a person in harmony with His placement of him/her in the body as long as the person is willing to walk in Him. It is the believer's individual responsibility to walk with God in the light; it is God's gracious commitment to make use of that person as He sees fit.
B. His fundamental understanding.
1. The divine use of "grace-gifts" is, first, "gracious", and, second, rooted in "the proportion of faith" given by God. This is clearly delineated by the statement in 12:3 that God has apportioned a "measure of faith" to each person. It is further established by the comment in 12:6 wherein we are told that we are to exercise our "grace-gift(s)" according to the "grace" given to us and according to the "apportionment of faith" that is ours. It is a discernible fact from the claims of our writer (Paul) that even the gift of "apostleship" was distributed to men in an uneven "measure", for he wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:10 that "...I labored more abundantly than they all..." and then qualified his boast by writing, "...yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." The Corinthians' foolishness actually compelled Paul to put this "boast" forward again in 2 Corinthians 11:23-31 so that we cannot help but conclude that there was an "unevenness" in the grace gifts even at the top of the "gift" list.
2. Paul's "third" understanding is that no one's "grace-gift" will be maximized apart from the issue of the commitment of 12:1-2.
3. And "fourth", there is the "Body" truth that the "Body" enjoys, or suffers, according to the presence/absence of the function (praxis) of each member. The sad fact is that the "churches" in our culture often hardly miss those people who move away, die, or switch to one of the other local groups. If a "church" doesn't "miss" a person who becomes "absent" there is only one conclusion that we can draw: that person was making no contribution.
C. His instruction.
1. Those who have the ability to "prophesy" are to "prophesy" according to the "apportioned faith" given to them.
a. There is no "verb" in 12:6-8 except a participle to begin 12:6. Paul is, by this, "assuming" that his readers will "supply" the requisite "verbal idea". This is prejudiced by the use of "praxis" in 12:4 where Paul declares that the various members of the body have not the same "praxis" (function).
b. The result of an "apportioned faith" in respect to a given "praxis" will be a varied set of actions.
c. The issue of "prophecy" as Paul's leading "for instance" is significant. The Church lives or dies by its exposure to the Word of God. But, the exercise of "prophecy" as a "grace-gift" is to be, by Paul's words, according to an apportioned faith. What does this mean? How is "prophecy" able to be "apportioned"? 1 Corinthians 13:9 gives some indication, for it says that we "know in part" and, thus, we "prophesy in part". It would seem, then, that as one's "knowing" increases, one's ability to "prophesy" also increases. This is as clear an indication as we have that the ability to exercise "grace-gifts" is directly tied to one's understanding of God's Truth. In other words, the Spirit apparently does not extend one's abilities very far beyond one's understanding. This is in perfect harmony with the idea of an "apportioned faith" because "faith" increases as understanding increases. 1 Thessalonians 5:20 also gives some idea of how "prophecy" functioned in the Church: it was subject to examination and, even, filtering. 1 Corinthians 12:32 reinforces this notion. Additionally, the apostle Paul went up to Jerusalem to set his "Gospel" before the assembled "pillars" of the Church as a demonstration that even apostles were subject to being examined.
d. The primacy of "prophecy" as the outcome of a "grace-gift" is stated in more than one way in the Bible. Paul said that they come behind only apostles (1 Corinthians 12:28) and that everyone in the church ought to exalt "prophecy" as primary (1 Corinthians 14:39) while retaining an appreciation of the more insignificant gifts.
e. One of the "prophecies" of the New Testament is that "prophesying" will die away over time (1 Corinthians 13:8). The question is whether that has, in fact, happened.
2. Those who have the ability to "minister" are to so "minister".
3. The list runs through "teaching", "exhortation", "giving", "ruling", and "showing mercy".
4. Critical to understanding is the issue of "definitions"; thus, we must be sure we understand to some degree that which Paul addresses and not be taken in by those who would distort the definitions in order to take advantage of others.