By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
In the Book of Romans, there is a very interesting passage which the Apostle Paul has left for us:
Romans 12:6-Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith;
What lessons may we glean from this inspired Word of God?
To answer that, let us look carefully at three things.
The Context Of The Passage
When studying anything, we need to consider it in its’ context. I have personally seen more harm done to Scripture when the context of a passage is not carefully examined. Remember that the devil tried to deceive the Lord Jesus Himself by taking a passage of Scripture out of its’ intended context; and it was only by quoting another passage from the Word of God that the Lord showed how the devil had misapplied Holy Writ (Matthew 4:5-7).
The Book of Romans consists of sixteen chapters. It was written by the Apostle Paul to the church of Christ at Rome. Paul was writing in the hopes that he would soon be visiting there, and he tells us that he had a very special reason for his desired stop with the brethren in that city:
Romans 1:11-For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established—
The Apostles of Jesus had been given His special authority, to bind and to loose His Word (Matthew 18:18; John 17:8). Implied in the very word “Apostle” is the idea of one who was sent forth with the authority of a king or ruling body who dispatched them.
One example of this important authority of an Apostle is seen in the way that the Jewish ruling body, the Sanhedrin, operated:
“The Sanhedrin was the supreme court of the Jews. In matters of religion, the Sanhedrin had authority over every Jew throughout the world. When the Sanhedrin came to a decision, that decision was given to an apostolos to convey it to the persons whom it concerned and to see that it was carried out. When such an apostolos went out, behind him and in him lay the authority of the Sanhedrin, whose representative he was.” (William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible: The Letters To The Galatians And Ephesians, 85 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press).
This special authority of the Apostles included their Divine guidance by the baptism of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 16:13; Acts 2:1-4).
In the first century, when the Apostles wanted to convey the ability to perform miraculous gifts to others, they did so through the laying on of their hands:
Acts 8:18-And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money,
Now, please notice that one of the reasons why Paul was so eager to come to Rome was so that he could impart spiritual gifts to the Romans. This is important, because it shows us that there were no inspired Prophets at Rome already.
In the first three chapters of Romans, Paul talks about the condemnation of mankind (due to sin). He concludes that all-both Gentiles and Jews (Romans 2:12-15; 3:1-5) are under condemnation from God because of failure to perfectly keep God’s perfect Law (Romans 3:23).
He then begins a detailed study of the justification of God’s people, demonstrating that we are saved through faith-and not through perfect law-keeping. Abraham was a perfect example of this justification by faith, and the Law itself testified of how we wold be saved through faith in the perfectly righteous Messiah of God:
Romans 4:23-25-23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him,
24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead,
25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.
As a result of this imputed righteous, we are now able to stand before God based upon faith:
Romans 5:1-2-1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Paul then goes on to describe the perfect obedience of Jesus, the Last Adam, as contrasted with the disobedience of the first Adam.
The focus of the Apostle on Jesus’ perfect life and obedience leads him to demonstrate the salvation that God’s people enjoy, which is achieved in the watery grave of baptism (Romans 6:3-4).
The Apostle then begins a detailed discussion regarding sanctification, reminding Christians of all ages that sanctification is actually a two stage concept (being both an event and a process).
“The English word sanctify or sanctification is built on the Latin word sanctus , which means “holy.” In English, we don’t turn the adjective holy into a verb. The world holify does not exist. But in the Greek language of the New Testament, the adjective holy ( hagios ) can be made into a verb ( hagiazō ), which means “to make holy” or to “treat as holy.” In Greek, that same adjective for holy ( hagios ) can be made into three different nouns ( hagiosmos , hagiōsunē , hagiotēs ), which sometimes mean “the condition of being holy” (“holiness”) or “the process of becoming holy”—which would be “holification” if such a word existed in English, but since it doesn’t, we use “sanctification.” Here’s the crucial point: any time you read in the New Testament any form of the word “sanctify,” you know you are reading about holiness . So a book like this on sanctification is a book on being or becoming holy. And the reason I use the terms “being” or “becoming” holy is that the New Testament refers to our holiness in both of those senses—a condition of being holy and a process of becoming holy. The clearest place to see both of these in one chapter is Hebrews 10. Hebrews 10:10 says, “By [God’s] will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” So there is a sense in which all those who believe in Jesus “have been sanctified.” They are holy. And then four verses later (v. 14) we read, “By a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified .” So there is a sense in which Christians are both perfected already (are perfectly holy) and are being sanctified (being made holy). Both the condition of being holy and the process of becoming holy are prominent in the New Testament. Neither is minimized. The most obvious way to see the prominence of the Christian condition or state of holiness is to see that Paul calls Christians “saints” forty times in his thirteen letters. Paul’s favorite name for Christians is saints . The New Testament word behind the English “saint” is simply the adjective for “holy” turned into a noun—“holy ones” ( hagioi ). You can see the connection between the condition of being sanctified and the name “saints” in 1 Corinthians 1:2: “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified ( hēgiasmenois ) in Christ Jesus, called to be saints ( klētois hagiois ).” So the picture is that God calls us, and unites us by faith to Jesus, so that “in Christ Jesus,” we are holy, sanctified, and the name that we get, therefore, is “saints” or “holy ones.” But the process of becoming holy (sanctification) is also prominent in the New Testament. We saw Hebrews 10:14, “By a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified .” We see it in 2 Corinthians 7:1: “Let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” So if we are bringing holiness to completion, there is a process of becoming fully holy. We are not there yet. Or 1 Thessalonians 5:23: “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely .” This prayer shows that our becoming holy is not yet complete. So Paul asks God to complete it. Or Hebrews 12:10: “[Our earthly fathers] disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but [God] disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness .” So a fuller holiness is coming through God’s discipline. The upshot of all this so far is that whenever the New Testament talks about sanctification, it is talking about holiness. And when it is talking about our holiness, it is either talking about the condition of our being holy (because we are in Christ Jesus—and thus saints), or it is talking about the process of our becoming holy through God’s work in our lives.” (John Piper & David Mathis (General Editors), Acting the Miracle: God’s Work and Ours in the Mystery of Sanctification, 345-381 (Kindle Edition); Wheaton, Illinois; Crossway).
In chapters 9-11, we then read about the predestination of God for His people throughout eternity. This predestination was in harmony with the free will of the people. This is especially demonstrated through Paul’s description of the unbelieving Jews who rejected Jesus by the words “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (Romans 9:22). Speaking of the grammar of this passage, we are reminded:
“28 They are , “objects of wrath.” They are “prepared for destruction” in the sense that by their life and conduct they have determined their own destiny. Murray comments that “there is an exact correspondence between what they were in this life and the perdition to which they are consigned. This is another way of saying that there is continuity between this life and their lot of the life to come” ( Romans , 2:36).” (Robert Mounce, The New American Commentary Volume 27: Romans, 234 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group)
However, the disobedient Jews may still be redeemed if they continue not in their unbelief, but instead obey the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 11:23-27).
This leads us to Romans 12.
In Paul’s writings, we find this pattern: the Apostle often begins a section of Scripture with a doctrinal discourse, and then spends the next part of his Epistle discussing how these teachings are to be applied in the lives of God’s people.
Having established these great truths, Paul reminds the Christians about the incredible grace that God has bestowed upon them, and how this demands a proper response from them:
Romans 12:1-2-1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
The Apostle now establishes the fact that these mercies of God demand a proper response from us: they demand a complete surrender of ourselves (body and spirit) to the will of God.
Romans 12:3-5-3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.
Stressing the importance of their unity in Christ, Paul is now going to exhort the members of the church to use their gifts in a way that will benefit and bless the entire church.
With this context in mind, let’s now notice the incredible content of this passage of Scripture.
The Content Of The Passage
Let’s notice the passage again:
Romans 12:6-Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith;
Let’s carefully break down the content of this passage and study.
The first thing to notice is that Paul says “gifts” have been given to the church.
What does this mean?
The Greek word used here that is translated as “gifts” is charisma. This word had several different connotations.
For example, sometimes it could refer to miraculous gifts (I.e., to the ability for some to work miracles such as raising the dead, opening the eyes of the blind, speaking and interpreting tongues, receiving and imparting the Divine Word miraculously, etc.-see for example 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; 2 Timothy 1:6).
There are many times where it could be used to refer to the “gift” of God in bringing salvation for sinners (Romans 5:15-16; 6:23; 11:29).
The word was also used to refer to the “gift” of God in helping a person to develop celibacy and continence during times of “present distress” (1 Corinthians 7:7).
Charis could also be used to refer to the many “gifts” that God provides in answer to our prayers (2 Corinthians 1:11).
It is important to realize that the gifts that God provides to mankind are gifts that are given to be a blessing; and that they are to be used for the establishment and edifying of the family of God.
With that in mind, notice that Paul points out that God has given gifts to His people. Every Christian has gifts that God has given him through the Spirit that can and should be used to help the church to grow.
The Meaning Of Prophecy
The word “prophecy” is an interesting word. The most common Old Testament word translated as “prophet” is naba, and was no doubt related to the Akkadian word nabu, which meant “to be called.” It also carried the idea of “one who bubbles,” I.e., one in whom the Word of God was proclaimed to the people.
It is important to realize that in Scripture, words often contain at least two different meanings: a general meaning, and a specific meaning. Don’t we see this, for example, in regards to the use of the word “elder?” An “elder” can simply be an older person; or it can have reference to a leader in the church (Acts 14:23).
In the same way, the word “prophet” can have the general meaning of a teacher, and the specific meaning of an inspired Prophet to whom God directly gives His Word.
The general meaning of the word “prophet” (and uninspired teacher) is perhaps best illustrated in the words of the Apostle Peter:
2 Peter 2:1-But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.
Notice how the words “teacher” and “prophet” are used interchangeably. In its most basic and general form, the word “prophet” meant simply a teacher.
This is also illustrated in the famous “schools of the prophets” mentioned in the Old Testament, where several people would go and learn to preach and teach the Word of God (1 Samuel 19:18-24; 2 Kings 4:38-41; Amos 7:14).
These prophets were not granted new Revelation from God per se, but were proclaimers of God’s Word that had been already delivered to the people.
Thus, the word “prophet” sometimes had reference to uninspired public proclaimed of the Aoes of God.
When speaking of miraculously endowed Prophets, the Bible teaches that gift would cease (along with all of the miraculous gifts) when the New Testament Scriptures had been completed and confirmed (1 Corinthians 13:8-10). Vine’s comments are instructive here:
““Though much of OT prophecy was purely predictive, see Micah 5:2, e.g., and cf. John 11:51, prophecy is not necessarily, nor even primarily, fore-telling. It is the declaration of that which cannot be known by natural means, Matt. 26:68, it is the forth-telling of the will of God, whether with reference to the past, the present, or the future, see Gen. 20:7; Deut. 18:18; Rev. 10:11; 11:3.… “In such passages as 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 2:20, the ‘prophets’ are placed after the ‘Apostles,’ since not the prophets of Israel are intended, but the ‘gifts’ of the ascended Lord, Eph. 4:8, 11; cf. Acts 13:1; … ; the purpose of their ministry was to edify, to comfort, and to encourage the believers, 1 Cor. 14:3, while its effect upon unbelievers was to show that the secrets of a man’s heart are known to God, to convict of sin, and to constrain to worship, vv. 24, 25. “With the completion of the canon of Scripture prophecy apparently passed away, 1 Cor. 13:8, 9.” (W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 49513-49533 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; Thomas Nelson Publishers).
The second and third century Christians mention how these miraculous gifts did indeed cease. Their writings are quite clear about it. For example:
Chrysostom-“[Commenting on 1 Corinthians 12:] “This whole place is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place.” (John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians , 36.7. Chrysostom is commenting on 1 Corinthians 12:1–2 and introducing the entire chapter. Cited from Gerald Bray, ed., 1–2 Corinthians , Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1999), 146)
Chrysostom (Commenting On 2 Thessalonians 2:7)-“One may naturally inquire what is that which restrains the man of lawlessness, and in addition, why Paul expresses it so obscurely. What then is it that holds back, that is, that hinders the revealing of, the Antichrist? Some indeed say, the grace of the Spirit, but others the Roman Empire. I agree with the latter position. Why? Because if Paul meant to say the Spirit, he would not have spoken obscurely but plainly, that even now the grace of the Spirit, that is the gifts, hold back the Antichrist. If not, he should have come by now, if his coming was to occur with the cessation of the gifts of the Spirit; for they have long since ceased….But because Paul said this of the Roman Empire, he merely touched the topic, understandably speaking covertly and darkly. For he had no need to create unnecessary enemies and useless dangers.…(Homilies on 2 Thessalonians 4. [NPNF 1 13:388-89*.])
Theodoret of Cyril-“In former times those who accepted the divine preaching and who were baptized for their salvation were given visible signs of the grace of the Holy Spirit at work in them. Some spoke in tongues which they did not know and which nobody had taught them, while others performed miracles or prophesied. The Corinthians also did these things, but they did not use the gifts as they should have done. They were more interested in showing off than in using them for the edification of the church.” (Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians 240. [PG 82:319])
Augustine-““In the earliest times, the Holy Spirit fell upon them that believe and they spoke with tongues, which they had not learned, as the Spirit gave them utterance. These were signs adapted to the time. For there was this betokening of the Holy Spirit in all tongues to show that the gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth. That thing was done for a sign, and it passed away.” (Augustine, Homilies on the First Epistle of John , 6.10. Cited from Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post- Nicene Fathers , 1st series (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2012), 7:497–98)
Gregory the Great-“Is it, my brethren, because we do not have these signs that you do not believe? These were needed at the church’s beginning. The new faith needed to be nourished by miracles to grow. When we plant a vineyard, we must water the plants till we see they have begun to grow in the earth, and when they have once taken root we cease to water them constantly.… But true life cannot be obtained by means of these outward signs by those who perform them. For although corporeal works of this kind sometimes do proclaim an inner holiness of life, they do not bring it about.” (Homilies on the Gospels 29. [Cetedoc 1711, 2.29.4, 5, 4.39; SSGF 2:428*; PL 76.])
Now, here is a question about our text: is Paul taking here in Romans 12 about inspired Prophets, or non-inspired preachers of the already delivered Word of God?
I believe he is talking about uninspired “prophets” or preachers.
Here are the reasons why.
First, there is nothing in the context to suggest that Paul is talking about miraculously given gifts.
Second, the passage clearly shows that the gifts Paul is talking about were already in the possession of the church in Rome.
Third, the gifts that Paul talks about were gifts that were common gifts to all the believers; and yet the miraculous gifts were not for every believer (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:29-30).
Fourth, that there were no miraculous gifts of the Spirit in Rome at this time seems evident from the fact that Paul had a strong desire to impart miraculous gifts to the church (Romans 1:11).
All of these factors lead me to the conclusion that the gift of prophecy here has reference to uninspired preachers of the Word of God.
The Motivation Of Prophecy
Paul wants us to understand here that the preacher of God’s Word must have the right motivations in proclaiming Scripture. He must be intent on building up the church.
The most important aim of the Gospel preacher is preaching the Word of God.
2 Timothy 4:2-4-2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
We have the obligation of speaking to the truth in love as Christians (Ephesians 4:15), of proclaiming the saving Message of Christ to a lost and dying world (1 Corinthians 1:18), of being true to Christ and His Word when people all around us would try and destroy us for being true to the Holy Scriptures (1 Peter 4:16).
Those with the gift of preaching must remember the solemn work that had been entrusted to them. Only when we have fully accepted the solemnity of the work that God has given us will we be able to say:
2 Timothy 4:6-8-6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
The Measure Of Prophecy
The last part of the verse is very interesting.
What does Paul mean when he says that we must prophesy according to the proportion of our faith?”
The word “proportion” that is used here was sometimes used in the Ancient Greek-speaking world to mean “standard” or “rule” (or as we might say, “canon”).
Before the word “faith” in this passage, the definite article is found. In other words, it says “THE faith.”
Now, in the Mew Testament, the phrase “the faith” has reference to the revealed Word of God. For example:
Acts 6:7-Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
Acts 13:6-8-6 Now when they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus, 7 who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear THE WORD OF GOD. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from THE FAITH. (Notice how “the faith” is used synonymously with “the Word of God”).
Acts 16::4-5-4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them THE DECREES to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in THE FAITH, and increased in number daily. (Notice how “the faith” is synonymous with the Divine “decrees”).
Philippians 1:27- Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for THE FAITH OF THE GOSPEL.”
Colossians 1:23-if indeed you continue in THE FAITH, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of THE GOSPEL, which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.
2 Timothy 3:8-Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist THE TRUTH: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning THE FAITH; (Notice that “the faith” is synonymous with “the truth”).
With that in mind, what is Paul telling preachers?
Romans 12:6 (DRB)-And having different gifts, according to the grace that is given us, either prophecy, to be used according to the rule of faith;
Romans 12:6 (GW)-God in his kindness gave each of us different gifts. If your gift is speaking God’s word, make sure what you say agrees with the Christian faith.
“‘Proportion’ is a translation of analogia in the Greek, a word used nowhere else in the New Testament; it means ‘in right relationship to,’ ‘in agreement with’. We tend to take ‘the faith’ as meaning ‘that which is believed, a body of doctrine,’ so that the exhortation here to the prophets is to make sure the message they deliver is in agreement with already admitted Christian doctrine.” (Gareth Reese, New Testament Epistles: Romans-A Commentary, 584-585; Moberly, Missouri; Scripture Exposition Books)
“The αναλογια της πιστεως, which we here translate the proportion of faith, and which some render the analogy of faith, signifies in grammar “the similar declension of similar words;” but in Scriptural matters it has been understood to mean the general and consistent plan or scheme of doctrines delivered in the Scriptures; where every thing bears its due relation and proportion to another.”. (Adam Clarke)
Thus interpreted, the meaning is that the prophet must make sure that what he teaches people is in harmony with the revealed Word of God, i.e., the Scriptures.
If it is argued that the New Testament Scriptures were not yet considered authoritative by the church, a little study will show the error in that thinking.
First, the Apostles were already referring to their writings as Scripture. For example:
1 Timothy 5:18-For the Scripture says, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE AN OX WHILE IT TREADS OUT THE GRAIN,” and, “THE LABORER IS WORTHY OF HIS WAGES.”
Paul here quotes two Scriptures in order to demonstrate his point that elders in the church are entitled to pay. The first reference is rom Deuteronomy 25:4. However, the second quotation is only found in one place:
Luke 10:7-And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house.
Paul quotes from the New Testament, and calls it Scripture.
The same thing is found in the Apostle Peter’s letter, when he is referring to the Epistles of Paul:
2 Peter 3:16-as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
Please notice that Paul refers to the writings of Peter, and classifies them as “Scripture.”
These examples show us that the early church was already recognizing the New Testament Books as “Scripture”.
Second, the Apostles clearly point out that their writings were as authoritative as their own teachings. Notice:
1 Corinthians 14:37-If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.
2 Thessalonians 2:15-Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.
2 Thessalonians 3:14-And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.
The Apostles of Christ invested their authority into the written New Testament Scriptures.
Finally, notice that the earliest church outside of the apostolic age clearly acknowledged the authority of the New Testament. For example, consider these quotations from the early Christian writers:
“Renouncing the error of your fathers, you should read the prophecies of the sacred writers…Learn from them what will give you everlasting life.” (Justin Martyr, 160)
“More strength will be given you, and the knowledge of the heart will be increased more and more, as you examine more fully the Scriptures, old and new, and read through the complete volumes of the spiritual books.” (Cyprian, 250)
“”We have learned the plan of our salvation from no one else other than from those through whom the gospel has come down to us. For they did at one time proclaim the gospel in public. And, at a later period, by the will of God, they handed the gospel down to us in the Scriptures-to be ‘the ground and pillar of our faith.'” (Irenaeus, 180).
“”In order that we might acquire an ampler and more authoritative knowledge of Himself, His counsels, and His will, God has added a written revelation for the benefit of everyone whose heart is set on seeking Him.” (Tertullian, 197)
“”It will be your duty, however, to present your proofs out of the Scriptures, as plainly as we do.” (Tertullian, 213)
“”Brethren, there is one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures and from no other source…Even as He has chosen to teach them by the Holy Scriptures, so let us discern them.” (Hippolytus, 205)
“We have the Lord as the source of teaching— both by the Prophets, the Gospel, and the blessed apostles. . . . He, then, who of himself believes the Scripture and the voice of the Lord (which by the Lord acts to the benefit of men) is rightly [regarded] as being faithful. Certainly we use it as a criterion in the discovery of things. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195)
“To those who thus ask questions, in the Scriptures there is given from God . . . the gift of the God- given knowledge. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195).
(All of these quotations are from David Bercot, A Dictionary Of Early Christian Belief: A Reference Guide To More Than 700 Topics Discussed By The Early Church Fathers, 22294-22380 (Kindle Edition); Peabody, Massachusetts; Hendrickson Publishers Marketing)
So in this passage, Paul is telling preachers to make sure that what they teach is in harmony with what God’s Divinely inspired Word has declared. In this regard, the exhortation of the Apostle is the same that God has given to His people throughout time: be faithful in what you teach!
if there is anything that is needed in this world, it is the need for people to return to the teaching of Scripture.
We need to get away from the things which cause denominationalism and put God’s Word first again.
We need for preachers to be true to His Word again, no matter how many people it offends (in the church, or outside of it).
The Consequence Of The Passage
Finally, let’s notice of the natural consequences of this passage of Scripture.
First, please consider that the natural and mandatory response to God’s gifts (the reasonable service to God’s mercies) is complete obedience to God (Romans 12:1-2). The love of Christ compels us (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
Second, God has given gifts to each of His people.
1 Peter 4:10-As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
God has given you a gift Christian! How are you using it?
Third, the gifts that God gives to His people are all important. Sometimes Christians feel that if their gifts for the church are different from other people’s gifts, then they are somehow unimportant.
It reminds me of the following story I read years ago.
Once there was a huge and beautiful church building. It was incredibly crafted, well-designed, with beautiful stained glass windows. There were nice and cushioned pews, amazing large print Bibles, and hymnals with old and newer songs. At the top of the ceiling, where the handsome ceiling beams were laid, there was a big black nail. Well one day, as the nail was looking down at the church building, he began to start feeling quite disgusted with himself. What difference did little Old Mr. Nail make?
After all, look at the pews that provided comfort and ease to the partitioner; what a great service Mr. Pew was very important!
The beautiful humans were so needed; they helped the people to sing such beautiful praises to God!
The ceiling fans helped keep the people comfortable (and let’s be honest, they helped keep the people awake during the sometimes long and drawn out sermons).
Yet what good did Mr. Nail do?
So the nail became annoyed and disgruntled, and over the next few weeks, he just gave up and let himself go.
After all, what did he do that was important?
He wouldn’t be missed if he was gone, right?
Before long, Mr. nail just fell out of the ceiling.
That night, a terrible storm blew through the area; and that beautiful church building had something terrible happen! The feeling of the building collapsed, and the whole place was ruined.
One of the firefighters found the reason for the collapse: a nail had fallen down out of the ceiling. The other nails, and the support of the entire place, had relied on that nail.
The entire church had collapsed because of one nail that do not realize how important its work really was.
Friends, YOU and YOUR WORK in the Lord is vital, it is needed, and it is appreciated.
1 Corinthians 15:58-Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
Galatians 6:9-And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
Finally, preachers of the Word of God: be faithful to His Word. No matter what persecution you may face (from either in the church or outside of the church), preach God’s Word.
And let me also encourage all the brethren: lift up your preachers and encourage them. Be a strength for them in this difficult world.
My friends, the greatest gift that God has given has been the gift of His Son, Jesus to pay the price for our sins (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 9:15). Through His death, burial, and resurrection from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8), Jesus is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him (Hebrews 7:25).
If you are not a Christian: will you not today repent of your sins as a believer, and be baptized into Christ in a profession of faith in Him (Acts 2:37-37; 8:35-39)?
If you are a child of God who has left the Lord in sin: will you not today repent of that sin and confess it to God in prayer to be forgiven and restored (1 John 1:8-2:2)?
Your family in Christ is ready to help you.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.