As Good Stewards of the Manifold Grace of God

Sermon preached on 1 Peter 4:7-11 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 8/14/2011 in Novato, CA.

Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
1 Peter 4:7-11

“As Good Stewards of the Manifold Grace of God”

“With great power comes great responsibility.” Those are the words found in the first Spiderman comic book. They are words of wisdom from Spiderman’s uncle Ben to Spiderman. The idea was that Peter Parker had been given the great gift of these powers to be able to be Spiderman. Now he had the great responsibility to use them for good. He must not use the powers for the wrong things. Nor must he neglect the powers, trying to live as if he didn’t have them. No, he had been given a gift; a gift he must make use of for good. With great power, comes great responsibility. Evidently, those words didn’t originate with the author of Spiderman, Stan Lee. I read that they came from Voltaire, originally in French. And yet, the idea certainly came long before Voltaire even. In Luke 12:48, Jesus said, “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”

And this is the subject we are dealing with today. The responsibility that comes with a great gift. This is our third and final week looking at this passage. Today, we’ll be honing in on verses 10 and 11 today which deal with spiritual gifts. Christians have been given spiritual gifts to use in the church. With these gifts, come the responsibility to make use of them for good. And just like how Spiderman’s gifts become all the more important to be used when there was crime and evil all around him, so too with us. In light of the fact that the end is near, we live in a time of growing lawlessness and rebellion. All the more we must take hold of the gifts God has given us to be used in building up his church. And so today we’ll think about the spiritual gifts and are responsibility to make use of them.

Let’s begin today by asking what is a spiritual gift? Let’s start in verse 10. “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Let’s make some initial observations. First, we see the language of a gift. A gift that we’ve received from God. We know it’s from God, because of the last part of the verse. It defines these gift as the manifold grace of God. This is talking about what we call spiritual gifts. These spiritual gifts are defined here as the manifold grace of God. The spiritual gifts God gives us are part of the grace he gives us. In fact, the word for gift in the Greek is grammatically related to the word for grace. Grace in the Greek is charitos and gift in the Greek is charisma. Charitos and charisma. Grace and gift. They are closely related. The spiritual gifts God gives us are his grace to us. We don’t deserve them. We’ve not earned them. They are freely given by him to us. And they are good things.

Notice that when he talks about these gifts of grace he says that they are manifold. In other words, when he talks about these spiritual gifts, he doesn’t just have one or two specific gifts in mind. No, they are manifold. They are varied. There are various gifts. Paul says that specifically in 1 Corinthians 12, that there are various gifts, but the same Spirit. They all come from God, in other words. But God gives his people different sorts of gifts. There are in fact several different passages in the New Testament that give lists of the spiritual gifts God gives us. Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4 are some of the key passages that give longer lists. And yet when you survey the different passages that list out spiritual gifts, you’ll see that none of them are the same. There are gifts that include gifts of teaching, gifts of administration, gifts of mercy, gifts of being a giver, and many others. There are also a number of gifts mentioned that include extra-ordinary spiritual gifts — such as people that are miracle workers or prophets – gifts that we don’t expect to see anymore in the church as they are extra-ordinary and they were used by God to affirm divine revelation – revelation which has been completed with the New Testament. But my point is that there is not a single passage that you can go to, in order to find the definitive list of spiritual gifts. No, you see they are manifold. There are numerous sorts of gifts God given us. If they can be used to be a blessing to you and church, then that is a gift. For James says that every good and perfect gift comes from above.

We see this sort of broad categorization of the gifts right here in verse 11. Verse 11 gives two example gifts. Look there. “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies.” And so it identifies speaking and serving. Given all that the New Testaments says on spiritual gifts, we should see these as examples of different kinds of gifts, not the only two Peter has in mind. And do you see how Peter again makes it clear that these gifts come from God? In the two examples, that’s the point here. If you have a gift that involves speaking or teaching God’s Word, do it as oracles of God. In other words, recognize that you are teaching not words that come from men, but that come from God. That which you have to give and speak is something that comes from God. The same is true of the serving. Peter says that if you serve, then do so as with the strength and ability that comes from God. Your power to be able to serve is a gift from God. And so the two example gifts here highlight that the gifts come from God. We don’t wield them on our own or with our own strength. We recognize they are something God’s entrusted to us.

It would be helpful to notice here that the two example gifts in verse 11 really cover the whole spectrum of church ministry. The first deals with the teaching ministry of the church. The second deals with the diaconal ministry of the church – the word serving here is the Greek word diakoneo, where we get the word deacon. Remember, by the way, that the diaconal ministry of the church is that part that extends mercy and help to those in need, often very physical or material help. Certainly you could think about how the pastors and elders are hopefully going to be the ones gifted for speaking. The deacons are hopefully going to be the ones gifted for diaconal serving. And yet, these gifts aren’t just for the ordained officers. By no means! The picture of these gifts in the New Testament is that all the members of the church have different gifts. And yet, I think what’s helpful about verse 11 is we can think about how each of your gifts fall into the broad spectrum of church ministry. In what ways are your gifts going to aid either the teaching ministry of the church, or the diaconal ministry of the church? You’ll roughly be involved in one or both of these types of ministries as a Christian. These broad wings of the church cover the sorts of things the church and Christians do.

What you want to see is that the spiritual gifts that God has given you are to be used in the context of church ministry. I don’t mean that just happens here on Sundays or at official church events. Yes, it especially happens there. But, it can also happen every day, when you as a Christian are just living your everyday life. You are part of the church and an extension of the church’s ministry wherever you are at. If you tell a co-worker about Christ during your lunch break, you are an extension of the teaching ministry of the church. If during your family devotions during the week, if you explain the passage to your children, then you are an extension of the teaching ministry of the church. Or, if you go over to the home of a widow in the church during the week and mow her lawn for her, then you are an extension of the diaconal ministry of the church. Same thing if you invite a member going through a trial over to your house for dinner to pray with them and encourage them. So, you don’t have to be at a church event to use your spiritual gifts. But recognize that your gifts are to be used as a way to bless and build up the church. As a part of the church’s ministry to each other and to the world.

And so in this first point, I’ve wanted us to see that spiritual gifts are part of how God gives us grace. He gives us different gifts of grace that gift us to certain functions in the church. We don’t all have the same exact gifts, and we all don’t have the same measure of the gifts, but that is part of the beauty of it. Together, the church is equipped for its ministry through these different gifting. And so what I’d like to turn now to consider is how this passage calls us to serve with our gifts. We’ve spent some time defining the gifts. Let’s spend some time now reflecting on what it will look like for you using these gifts in the church.

Notice then first how verse 10 talks about how each has received a gift. Actually, to clarify it’s not saying that each person has received just a single gift. That is how you might read it at first glance. But it’s saying as each person has received a gift, this then is what you are to do with it. In other words, each person may have several different gifts. Some people might be really good at just one or two things. Some people might be fairly talented at a number of things. But Paul says about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:7 that each has received a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. In other words, everyone is gifted from the Lord. In what way? With manifold grace as it says here. In different ways, in other words.

When you read this, you should ask yourself a question. This implies a question. In what ways have I been gifted? What spiritual gifts have I received from the Lord? But the thing to realize is that however you have been gifted, it’s for a good use. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul compares the way we are spiritually gifted as to the different parts of the body. He says that some parts of the body may seem more glorious. Some parts of the body may seem more purposeful. But the body works best when it has all the parts of the body. Sure, you can get by without many of your body parts – but we rightly would call that a handicap. Well, in the ministry of the church, you have gifts that are needed. God gave you those gifts so you would use them.

You know there are many different tests out there that people can go through to find out what their gifts are. I’m sure those things can be helpful. But at the same time, this really isn’t rocket science. We’re talking about looking at the needs of the church and looking at what you are good at. Then use those gifts. Often the things that you are good at, are also things you love – though not always the case. But when they are, then that’s wonderful. And Paul also says in 1 Corinthians 12:31 to desire the best gifts! So, whatever your gifts, if you see a need in the church that you are not very good at – that can give you an opportunity to aspire to grow in that gift too.

Notice that verse 10 specifically calls us to use these gifts. That’s the point of verse 10. For each gift that you receive, use it. How? Minister it unto one another. Serve one another with it. And the way in the Greek the word is written here for one another, it would include yourself as well. In other words, use these gifts in a way that serves others and even yourself. These gifts are to be a blessing to all God’s people, that includes even yourself. He cares about all our wellbeing and growth. God gave these gifts to the church because he knows we need them. Different skills, talents, and abilities, that all complement each other. Together we do the ministry of the church. A church that reaches out with the gospel and reaches inward in discipleship. A church then that together responds in worship, and living a life of faith and repentance in Christ.

And so we are given the gifts to use them to minister to ourselves. We are to use them. That’s why it goes on in verse 10 to say that we are to do this as good stewards of these gifts. This word for a steward is someone who takes care of a house entrusted to them. In other words, it’s a word that refers to a person who was hired to take care of a house entrusted to him. A steward has a charge and responsibility to care for something that belongs to someone else. Here the picture is that God has given you these gracious gifts. But they are really belonging to God. He’s entrusted each of us with these gifts for a particular purpose. To use in building up the body of Christ. This is why I used that Spiderman quote from earlier. We have a responsibility as Christians. A responsibility to make the most of the gifts God’s given me.

Just think of Jesus’ parable from Luke 12. There he compared the two kinds of stewards. One was a faithful and wise servant. He watched over his master’ house in his absence. He gave out the food to the servants under him, in the right timing. He was responsible for what the master entrusted to him. Jesus says that when the master returns he will reward that faithful steward with even more responsibilities. On the other hand, there was the foolish servant. That servant was treacherous. He did not properly care for the servants under him, but instead beat them. He was more concerned with feasting and partying than treating the other servants well. Jesus says that when the master returns he will do away with that wicked servant. That’s when Jesus says that when we are entrusted with much, then more is expected of us. We too likewise are expected to be responsible with what God entrusts us. When a spiritual gift is given to us, we are to use it in keeping with the purpose for which God gave it to us.

Another example is the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. There Jesus describes three servants who were given money from their master – measured in talents. A talent was about 20 years wages for a laborer. One servant was given 5 talents, one 3 talents, and one 1 talent. The first two servants each traded and doubled their talents. They were faithful stewards of their master. The last servant just dug a hole in the ground and put the money in there. Well of course when the master returned he commended the first two for their wise stewardship, but he was furious with the last servant. He did not make use of what he had been given. You see, it’s not about how much were given, but it’s about what we do with what we have been given.

And so my second point here today is that we need serve the church with our gifts. Yes, we must not use these gifts for evil. But it’s also not enough to just sit on our gifts. This passage is telling us we must not squander the spiritual gifts God has given us. No, they are to be used for a specific purpose. We are to be the good and faithful stewards of these gifts. They have been entrusted to us because God knows we and the whole church needs them. Let us all work together to be a blessing to one another with these gifts of divine grace.

The last point I’d like us to turn now to consider today comes from the last part of verse 11. There we are told the ultimate purpose and end of these gifts. The glory of God. Yes, there’s a more immediate purpose than that. The most immediate purpose is that these gifts grow us. The gifts benefit the church. They help us. That’s an immediate purpose of these gifts. And yet verse 11 sees that the ultimate end of these gifts is that God is glorified. “That in all things God be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and dominion forever and ever.”

And so as we are blessed by these gifts, we are supposed to praise God. As we are grown by these gifts, God gets the credit. It brings all the honor to God for how he grows and provides for his church. Remember, this is about grace. He’s saved us by grace. He grows us by grace. These gifts are his grace. And so when we see how he is working through them, it’s to his glory. Realize how much our God cares for us. He wants us to know his goodness. This makes sense of course. What is man’s chief end? To glorify God and enjoy him forever. These spiritual gifts work to that end in our life.

But notice with me that verse 11 qualifies how God is glorified in this. He is glorified, it says, through Christ. That’s a subtle little note, but it’s so significant. How do we receive God’s grace? Grace that will glorify God? Through Christ. We tend to think about that in terms of saving grace. We are saved and forgiven and granted eternal life because of what Christ did on the cross. That does glorify God. But also realize that this includes our spiritual gifts. We receive those through Christ. Why? How? Well, remember, it was Christ when he was on earth who said that when he left he would send his Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ who proceeds from the Father and the Son. And when we talk about spiritual gifts, Paul says they come from the Spirit. The Spirit, whom Christ sent, of course. And so do you see how this is all in and through Christ? Christ went to the cross to save us from our sins and bring us to God. But he also did all that so that we could receive spiritual gifts. Gifts that will bless us and glorify God.

And so don’t miss how this passage again draws us to remember Christ and the cross. See Jesus again in this passage. See the gospel again here. Place your faith afresh and anew this day in how wonderful your savior is. Rejoice that in him he provides all that you need. That’s why he’s called our Good Shepherd. He leads us to a final paradise of heaven. But along the way he brings us to food and water to provide for us and to protect us. He does that in part through the spiritual gifts he gives each of us.

Brothers and sisters, let me conclude our sermon today by pointing out a clear implication in all of this. Part of the responsibility involved with these gifts means that you must be involved in the life of the church. As we’ve seen today, these gifts especially are given to bless the body of Christ. That means you have to be regularly participating with the body of Christ. Regular church attendances is obviously a part of this. If you are not regularly attending the Sunday worship and fellows, you are missing out a primary venue for these gifts to be used. You’ll be missing out of the blessings others’ gift will bring to you. And others are deprived of the gifts God has given you to bless them. But surely the greatness of this gift goes beyond just what goes on here Sunday. The early church in Acts shows a church engaged in gospel work and having fellowship opportunities daily. Now, there certainly is not a mandate to meet together daily. But the point is that our fellowship is not something to be confined to just Sundays. When you get together with other saints during the week, this is also times where we can especially use those gifts. That doesn’t have to be just at an official church event during the week, either. Some of the best times to uses these gifts are when you have people over to you house during the week, or do something with them midweek.

This is one of the reasons why I am excited about the upcoming Community Groups that we are starting in September. This is part of what I’m hoping will go on. I’m hoping that it won’t just be a monthly get together. I’m hoping it’s a chance to build relationships with each other. That those relationships can then especially foster outside of official church functions. Maybe you’ll pick up a prayer partner as you get to know someone better at the Community Groups. Maybe you’ll find a hiking buddy or a tea time friend. Don’t get me wrong, those things can be found at church on Sundays. Don’t misunderstand me, I certainly see the primacy of our ministry done when we are together on Sundays. The point is not so much about the day or the time of the day. My point today is about being involved in the life of the church. Some people could come every single Sunday to church, be on time and mentally prepared. They could have a great program of personal bible study and prayer all week long. They could live a generally righteous moral life, and miss out on what we are talking about. And so whether it be after the service, or during the week, or however it may be, find time to spend with the other members in the church. Build relationships and look to bring out opportunities to use your gifts to bless others and to be blessed by their gifts. “With great power comes great responsibility.” We thank God that Jesus Christ, who has the greatest power and authority has promised to be with us, even as we step out in faith and look to form deeper relationships with one another. Let us expect God to do great things as we invest ourselves in the body of Christ. Amen.

Copyright (c) 2011 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.


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