8. Grace and Ministry (1 Peter 4:10; 1 Corinthians 15:9-10)


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Bartolomeo Montagna, detail from 'Saint Paul' (1482), oil on panel, Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan, Italy.
"Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace" (Ephesians 3:7). Bartolomeo Montagna, detail from 'Saint Paul' (1482), oil on panel, Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan, Italy.

We've looked at grace as "God's favor that is unearned and undeserved," especially as it relates to salvation (Lesson 2 and Lesson 4). We've also looked at grace as God's favor distributed to his children in answers to prayer, coming before the "throne of grace" (Lesson 7.1).

But there's another way grace is used in the New Testament that relates to the "effect" of God's grace.243 For example,

"When he arrived and saw the [evidence of] the grace (charis) of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts." (Acts 11:23, NIV)

When God's grace is at work there will be an effect. In this lesson we'll examine how grace is involved with ministry gifts and authority to minister. In Lesson 9 we'll see how grace can and should affect our lives, so that we become sources of grace -- unearned and unmerited favor to all those around us.

8.1 Charismata -- Spiritual Gifts of Grace

It should be no surprise that grace and spiritual gifts are linked. Even the Greek words are closely related:

  • charis -- "favor"

  • charisma -- "gift, favor bestowed"

Charisma (plural charismata) refers to "that which is freely and graciously given, favor bestowed, gift."244 The spiritual gifts God has placed in your care are a clear evidence of God's grace to be share with others. Paul writes:

"But to each one of us grace (charis) has been given as Christ apportioned245 it." (Ephesians 4:7)

A few verses later, he enumerates some ministry gifts -- apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher -- each designed to build up the church and bring it to maturity (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Grace Gifts

Similarly, Paul writes to the Roman church:

"We have different gifts (charismata), according to the grace (charis) given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith." (Romans 12:6)

To the Corinthian church Paul writes:

"1 Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.... 4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men." (1 Corinthians 12:1, 4-6)

Paul names nine different spiritual gifts, explains the importance of the variety of God's gifts, and concludes the chapter with these words:

"... Eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way." (1 Corinthians 12:31)

That "most excellent way," of course, is love.

To whom is the gift actually given? It is given to the recipient, but you begin to realize that the benefit to the individual recipient isn't most important. Rather, spiritual gifts are distributed with the expectation "that the church may be edified" or built up (1 Corinthians 14:5).

This isn't the place to describe all the spiritual gifts mentioned in the New Testament. (See my Disciple's Guide to the Holy Spirit (JesusWalk Publications, 2018), Lesson 8 and Lesson 9, www.jesuswalk.com/spirit/). However, understand that God's distribution of gifts to his church is designed to bless the church, not merely the vessel through which that blessing comes.

Q31. (Ephesians 4:7; Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:1, 4-6) Why is there such a close relationship between "grace" (charis) and "gifts" (charisma)? What is the chief characteristic of a generous person? In what ways do spiritual gifts channel God's grace? http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/2167-q31-grace-and-gifts/

Trustees of Divine Gifts (1 Peter 4:10)

With this in mind, let's spend some time exploring the Apostle Peter's exhortation that outlines our responsibilities.

"Each of you should use whatever gift (charisma) you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace (charis) in its various forms." (1 Peter 4:10)

Whatever gift God gives us, he expects us to be a faithful steward of it. "Steward" here is oikonomos, "manager of a household or estate, (house) steward, manager," then more generally, "administrator."246 Joseph was a steward over Potiphar's household, for example, in charge of running the house and accomplishing the needed tasks. The steward or manager doesn't possess the master's possessions; rather he administers them to the master's best advantage.

It's kind of like God gives us gifts with which to set up a trust fund. We are the trustees of the riches placed in this fund, but the riches aren't ours. They are entrusted to us to distribute to others.

You and I have been entrusted with a particular gift or set of gifts by Christ to do his work and build up his church. We give ourselves to do the very best we can with what He has given us.

Recall Jesus' Parable of the Minas. The nobleman, preparing to go away on a trip, gives ten servants each an investment of ten minas to put to work in the interim. He tells them, 'Put this money to work until I come back" (Luke 19:13, NIV). When he returns, he goes over the accounts and rejoices with those servants who have used what they have been given to get more.

As good stewards of Christ's gifts, we are to be as generous as possible in the distribution of the blessings of the gifts in order to build up his church. As Paul puts it in his chapter on spiritual gifts,

"To each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good." (1 Corinthians 12:7)

The house servant makes sure that the master's other servants have what they need for the common good. Grace and gifts of grace are not to be hoarded.

Q32. (1 Peter 4:10) We are stewards of God's grace. What are the responsibilities of a steward or trustee? In what way do we act as trustees of what belongs to God? In what way are spiritual gifts or the message of the gospel part of this trust we have been given?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/2168-q32-stewards/

Isolation and Spiritual Gifts

As I write this, our world is gradually coming out of a period of isolation, of lock-downs, socially distancing, and masking to prevent our medical systems from being overrun from Covid-19 sufferers. In many cases, people have gotten out of the habit of attending church on Sunday and at other times. I know this has sometimes been necessary. Nevertheless, this has hurt the body -- and not just financially.

Consider that God has given each member of his body a spiritual gift to build up and bless others. When you separate people from one another, it becomes much harder to exercise these gifts. We have found creative ways to broadcast services to the homebound and reach out, but that only features the more public gifts. A vast variety of personal gifts of caring, exhortation, healing prayer, encouragement, mercy, etc. are diminished because people aren't together. The distribution of God's grace to his body is stunted.

I communicate regularly with many people who no longer attend church -- and not because of Covid. Rather, they've been hurt in a church setting and are afraid to return or are still bitter. Perhaps they can't find a "perfect church" in their community, and so have got in the habit of not attending in person. They may "attend" a megachurch on television as spectators where they can receive from spiritual gifts of preaching, teaching, and music, but they are cut off from most of the others. This reinforces their spiritual poverty, since they aren't receiving the blessings that come naturally when you are a regular part of a congregation. And their own spiritual gifts -- and financial resources -- are often locked at home. Wasted for the Kingdom.

My dear friends. This is a tragedy! And in some cases it is a sinful tragedy. Let me exhort you afresh with the words of St. Peter:

"Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms." (1 Peter 4:10)

You are a trustee, a steward of something that belongs to God. Do your duty! Don't wrap up the gift God has given you and bury it in the ground as the evil servant in the Parables of the Talents and of the Minas (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27). Put it to use for the Master! Don't receive the grace of God in vain, only to let it end with you!

Q33. Why are God's gifts of grace an immensely greater blessing to those who attend church and are a functioning part of a congregation? How can isolating yourself from the Christian community involve selfishness and fear? How can it impoverish you?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/2169-q33-isolation/

8.2 Empowering Grace (1 Corinthians 15:9-10)

As I've looked at the New Testament passages that mention grace, I see many where Paul recounts the very great grace of God upon him to enable him minister with power. Do you seem powerless? God's grace comes with power. Let me give you a sampling.

Selected by Grace for Ministry

Paul is very aware that he doesn't deserve this leadership role. He receives it by grace, nothing more.

"Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." (Ephesians 3:7-8, ESV)

Grace is clearly mentioned in the context of ministry, in this case, Paul's ministry to the Gentiles.

"14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners -- of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life." (1 Timothy 1:14-16)

Paul sees his ministry as an in-the-flesh example of God's amazing grace. If God can choose him, with all his religious baggage and history as Christ's active enemy, God can choose anyone.

"9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them -- yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me." (1 Corinthians 15:9-10)

If you sense a bit of boastfulness here of how hard he has worked compared to other apostles, you're probably right. But for context, realize that Paul's apostleship has been attacked by enemies in Corinth. He has been negatively compared to Apollos. Paul has been trained as a Jewish rabbi, so his rhetoric isn't polished in the Greek tradition like the Corinthian church's current favorites, which Paul calls "super-apostles" (2 Corinthians 11:5-6) and "false apostles" (2 Corinthians 11:13).

My minister friend, you may be criticized (rightly or wrongly) for some of your flaws. In my first church, one of the ladies left the church and did not return until I left twelve years later. In her view, I was too "rough," not polished enough. Sometimes we feel tremendously inferior -- perhaps from lack of education or a sense of powerlessness. Sometimes we have embraced Satan's lies about us. We must resist this at all costs!

Paul says,

"By the grace of God I am what I am...." (1 Corinthians 15:10a)

My friend, you are who you are by God's grace. And in spite of your weaknesses, God can use you powerfully. In Lesson 7.2, we studied how God told Paul:

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

You may be buffeted by conflicts on the outside and fears within. Stand in God's grace. In him you have the victory!

Q34. (1 Corinthians 15:10) How does your openness to God's grace define your persona, who you actually are? How does your willingness to dispense God's grace to others mold you into who God has designed you to be?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/2170-q34-grace-and-persona/

With God's Grace Comes God's Power

"Grace" sounds so outgoing and generous, yet often it is paired with the word "power" in the New Testament.247 Observe the word power (dynamis) in these verses.

"With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God's grace was so powerfully at work in them all." (Acts 4:33)

"Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people." (Acts 6:8)

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9a)

"I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power." (Ephesians 3:7)

"We have [conducted ourselves in holiness and sincerity] not according to worldly wisdom but according to God's grace." (2 Corinthians 1:12)

"You then, my son, be strong248 in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 2:1)

Paul was a well-educated, gifted man. Not a great orator by Greek standards, but a fearless and persistent spokesman for the Lord. When you consider what he and his team accomplished in the cities of Philippi, Corinth, Thessalonica, and Ephesus, you realize that this wasn't just a gifted man, but a man upon whom was poured the favor of God. He operated at a level of Holy Spirit power beyond even his gifts.

Grace is God's favor that is neither earned nor deserved. But when God's favor rests on a person, so does power and capability beyond him or herself. Part of this is the spiritual gift or gifts -- what I think of as the unique spiritual "wiring" with which God fitted each one of us. But part of it is grace expressed in power and what Pentecostals call "the anointing."

God's Grace Bestows Authority

New Testament Greek employs two nouns that relate to power. Each has its own flavor -- and realize that I'm oversimplifying here to make the point.

  1. Dynamis, "potential for functioning in some way, power, might, strength, force, capability."249
  2. Exousia, "the right to control or command, authority, absolute power, warrant."250

We've seen grace paired with power, might, capability. In the next verses we see grace paired with apostolic authority. Though charis and exousia are not paired in any verses I'm aware of, yet the following verses seem to be conveying the idea of authority.

"Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith." (Romans 1:5)

"By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it." (1 Corinthians 3:10)

"15 I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16a to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles." (Romans 15:15-16a)

As we have seen, grace has a lot to do with the power of spiritual gifts and with the authority of our calling. My friend, God has given you gifts, and with those both power and spiritual authority to exercise them, whether or not you have any title or official role in your congregation. Don't keep the grace of God bottled up. Let it flow!

Spiritual Gifts and Individual Predestination

As mentioned in Lesson 6.1, we don't know exactly how predestination works, but from Paul's life it seems clear that sometimes God predestines an individual and gifts them far ahead of time to do a particular task.251

"15 When God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man...." (Galatians 1:15-16)

 "The Lord said to Ananias, 'Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.'" (Acts 9:15)

During Queen Esther's life in the household of the Persian King it becomes obvious that she has been sent by God -- predestined -- for a particular task: to deliver God's people. Mordecai exhorts her:

"For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14)

My friend, God gives gifts of grace to his children. Along with these gifts come joy, purpose, and great responsibility. How have God's gifts of grace touched you? What is God saying to you about employing your gifts of grace in his Kingdom?

Lessons for Disciples

This chapter contains many lessons for us to ponder.

  1. Sometimes charis ("grace") is used in the sense of the concrete "effect" of God's favor.
  2. The word "gift" (charisma, pl., charismata) is closely related to the Greek word "grace, favor" (charis).
  3. Spiritual gifts, given to believers by God's grace, channel God's grace through us to Christ's body and the world (Ephesians 4:7; Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 1:5-7).
  4. We are stewards or trustees of spiritual gifts given by God's grace, responsible to God to use them to build up God's people and Christ's work in the world (1 Peter 4:10; Luke 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27).
  5. When we isolate ourselves, when we are absent from church, we interrupt or lessen the flow of God's grace through spiritual gifts from us to the body and from Christ's body to us. This is like burying our gift in the ground.
  6. With God's grace, gifting, and appointments to ministry come God's power (Ephesians 3:7-8; 1 Timothy 1:14-16; Acts 4;33; 6:8; etc.).
  7. We are formed to be the people we become by yielding to God's spiritual gifts placed within us by his grace. If we don't exercise those gifts, we stunt both our growth and limit what God has planned for us (1 Corinthians 15:9-10).
  8. With God's grace we receive spiritual authority to minister, not based on man's ordination, but God's appointment (1 Corinthians 3:10; Romans 15:15-16a).
  9. Spiritual gifts and ministries may be part of God's predestined plan for us (Galatians 1:15-16; Esther 4:14).

Prayer


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Lord, thank you for how you spread your grace to the world through me and my brothers and sisters. Help us to be faithful stewards of your grace. Take away our fears. Help us not to be selfish with your grace, but let it flow as you intend. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

Key Verses

"But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it." (Ephesians 4:7, NIV)

"We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith." (Romans 12:6, NIV)

"1 Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.... 4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. 7 To each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good." (1 Corinthians 12:1, 5-7, NIV)

"Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms." (1 Peter 4:10, NIV)

"Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." (Ephesians 3:7-8, ESV)

"The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus." (1 Timothy 1:14, NIV)

"By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them -- yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me." (1 Corinthians 15:10, NIV)

"With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God's grace was so powerfully at work in them all." (Acts 4:33, NIV)

"Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith." (Romans 1:5, NIV)

"By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it." (1 Corinthians 3:10, NIV)

"When God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man...." (Galatians 1:15-16, NIV)

End Notes

References and Abbreviations

[243] BDAG (pp. 1079-1080) puts this kind of grace in two categories: 3. "Practical application of goodwill, (a sign of) favor, gracious deed/gift, benefaction" ... and 4. "Exceptional effect produced by generosity, favor. Of effects produced by divine beneficence which go beyond those associated with a specific Christian's status." Thayer (p. 666, 3) sees this as, "what is due to grace," especially, "a token or proof of grace, a gift of grace, benefaction, bounty."

[244] Charisma, BDAG 1081b.

[245] "Apportioned" (NIV), literally, "according to the measure" (ESV, NRSV, KJV) is three words, kata to metron. Metron is "an instrument for measuring, measure," then, "the resulting of measuring, quantity, number," used here figuratively as in Romans 12:3 (BDAG 644, 2b).

[246] Oikonomos, BDAG 698, 3, from oikos, "house" and nemō, "to deal out, dispense, manage."

[247] "Paul knows that through the charis of God he has been called to be an apostle, and that he has been fitted out with the powers and capabilities requisite for this office from the same source (charis, BDAG 1080, 4).

[248] "Be strong" (NIV, NRSV, KJV), "be strengthened" (ESV) is the present imperative of endunamoō, "to become able to function or do something, become strong" (BDAG 333, 2b).

[249] Dynamis, BDAG 262, 1.

[250] Exousia, BDAG 353, 3.

[251] There are many indications in Scripture of personal predestination and foreknowledge, such as Psalm 139:15-16; Isaiah 49:1; Jeremiah 1:5; Luke 1:15; etc.

Copyright © 2022, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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