“As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
As each one has received a gift,
“As” means to the degree that we received our gift. “As” sets up an analogy between the grace of how we received our gift and the grace of how we are to minister the gift. By grace we received the gift, and it is by grace that we use the gift. We serve God because God gives, not because we earn the right to be used by God. God gave us our gift entirely by grace, and we minister it entirely by grace.
“Each one” indicates that every Christian has at least one spiritual gift. God excludes no one in the distribution of gifts to the body of Christ. We receive these special supernatural endowments at our salvation (1 Co 12:11-13). Spiritual gifts enable the body of Christ to function as a whole (1 Co 12:15,21). All spiritual gifts must operate in the environment of love (1 Co 13). We should give the greatest priority to the gifts that relate to maturity (1 Co 14).
Each of us “received” the gift. We did not work for it. We did not earn it. God gave it to us with no strings attached. Everything that we have, God donated to us. Therefore, there is no ground for bragging. What do we have to brag about?
What did we do to get the gift? Nothing. It was a donation. How did we “receive” our gift? By grace. We do not get this gift by some super sacrifice, by working for it, by hustling for it, by living a clean life or by agonizing in the closet. Since we did nothing to acquire our spiritual gift, we should minister it in grace.
1 Co 4:7, “For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”
This use of the word “gift” is the only occurrence outside the writings of Paul. A spiritual “gift” is a special, supernatural bestowing of a special capacity to serve the body of Christ or reach those without Christ. It is a special, supernatural endowment by the Holy Spirit to do the work of God (Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 1:7; 12:4, 9, 28, 30, 31; 1 Ti. 4:14; 2 Ti. 1:6; 1 Pet. 4:10).
The word “gift” derives from the same root as “grace,” denoting something freely given, a favor bestowed. A gift is the capacity to benefit the body of Christ. The Christian cannot claim that this capacity came from himself. He cannot claim to produce this gift because it was a grace given by God. Our gifts belong to the purpose of God.
Two chapters in the New Testament catalog the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Romans 12 catalogs seven gifts, and I Corinthians 12 catalogs 11 gifts. Some gifts are duplications. Eliminating duplications, there are 14 distinct gifts in those two chapters. All total, there are over 20 gifts when we consider the aggregate of all the gifts of the New Testament.
We exercise our gift in grace because we received our gift by grace.
God does not want us to be ambivalent about the gifts he gives us. In fact, he warns us not to neglect our gifts:
1 Ti 4:14, “Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership.”
Some of us may not feel gifted, but God has gifted us. We may not have a public gift or a sensational gift, but we have a gift. Paul tells us to activate our latent gifts. Our gift will not function without animating them. To discover what our gift is, we must read the label on the gift to see if God addresses the gift to us.
2 Ti 1:6, “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”
If someone were to give us a gift at Christmas and we threw it in the attic without opening it, it would be an insult to the giver. If Christians receive special supernatural endowments to do the work of God and leave them latent, this is an insult to God who gave the gift. God gave every Christian a special endowment to serve him without exception.
Will you stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ empty-handed with no representation of using our gift responsibly? It will do no good to say, “Well, I wasn’t talented. I do not have anything to offer the church. I am a speckled bird that does not fit in. I couldn’t do anything. All I could do was sit. All I could do was be a religious spectator all my life. I watch others serve. All I can do is pity myself all these years.”
Neglect of our gift is an indication of our lack of appreciation for the grace of God. Very few Christians seize their gifts and use them for God’s glory to the benefit of the body of Christ. Never did so many owe so much to so few.