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prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth on teaching; 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,” &c. (Rom. xii. 3—8). It is to be observed, that this exhortation comes in when the teaching concerning justification by faith and the complete acceptance of the sinner through the blood of the Lord Jesus having been given ; the practical consequence of knowing “ the mercies of God” is pressed upon the saints: they are on this ground exhorted to “present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ,” not to be conformed to the world, &c., and then, to give intelligence in service, there follows the above teaching concerning gifts. There are here seven gifts spoken of as belonging to the members of the body; and even if there be some respecting which we know but little, there are others concerning which we can be in no doubt at all.
The seven are then these : 1st. “ Prophecy,” which is probably bringing the mind of Christ to bear upon the circumstances of the Church ; some of its characteristics are described in 1 Cor. xiv. 3. “ He that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.” 2nd. “ Ministry” (or service), which appears to be used here in an emphatic sense, perhaps the preaching of the Gospel is that which is especially intended (see 2 Cor. iii
. 6, 7, &c.; iv. 1 ; v. 18).* 3rd. “ Teaching,” which explains itself
, although it has been greatly confounded with “preaching." 4th. “Exhortation," which also has been confounded, in a great measure, with
preaching.” 5th. “Giving,” which shews, from its collocation, how wide is the range of gift in the Church, whereby God may be glorified; the imparting of that which we may possess, is actually placed by the Spirit of God in the list of“ gifts," with “teaching,” “ruling,” &c. 6th. “ Ruling," this has been very commonly blended in the thoughts of Christians, with“ ministry in the word,” but there is no necessary combination of the two gifts (see 1 Tim. v. 17). 7th. “Shewing mercy;" it is really delightful to see this occupying its place in the goodly category of the ways of service, of which the Spirit of God speaks. “We have obtained mercy,” is the ground on which we are called to service (Rom. xii. 1). “God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, by grace ye are saved” (Eph. ii. 4,5). And we are to shew our having obtained mercy, by exhibiting our Father's mind. I feel the more desirous of pressing this, because the shewing of mercy is a service which now is regarded as of little esteem, and yet it is one of those unobtrusive ways of service, in which many, even of the weakest of the flock of Jesus Christ, may be able to walk. God met us in mercy when utterly destitute of any desert to call it forth, so ought we to act in mercy upon precisely the same principle of grace.
These gifts are mentioned as differing according to grace given: it is not said that each saint would have them all, or, indeed, that any should be so endowed; nor, on the other hand, is it said that no one can have more than one of the gifts mentioned; indeed, on the other hand, some are spoken of in the New Testament as having more than one, conjointly. The Holy Ghost speaks in this passage more of exercise of gift than of individual distribution.
There is a passage very similar in its bearing in 1 Pet. iv. 10, 11. “ As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God;t if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God, in all things, may be glorified, through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
The distribution of gifts is very distinctly brought before us by the Spirit of God,
* But it would be impossible to limit the measuring of diakovia and its cognate words to the “ministry of the Gospel ;” a simple reference to a Greek Concordance will shew this. Our translators have often rendered such words according to their own ideas; diákovos is three times made into an official word “deacon ;” and “ let them use the office of a deacon,” really means only“ let them serve."
+ This has been often misunderstood, as if it meant, “If any man speak, let him speak according to Scripture;” now, while it is quite true, that no one should speak unless he speaks thus, this passage declares a great deal more; “let him speak as the oracles of God;" as they speak—as declaring the mind of God, so that the teaching shall really be the bringing of the profitable truth of God before those who hear.
in 1 Cor. xii. and xiv. A few passages from these chapters will evince this. Paul speaks of the Spirit as being the introducer into the Church, and even as He gives spiritual life, so does He bestow gifts of one kind or another. “ I give you to un, derstand that no man, speaking by the Spirit of God, calleth Jesus accursed; and that no man can say, Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations (services], but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 1. For to one is given, by the Spirit, the word of wisdom; 2. To another the word of knowledge, by the same Špirit ; 3. To another fuith, by the same Spirit; 4. To another gifts of healing, by the same Spirit; 5. To another the working of miracles; 6. To another prophecy ; 7. To another discerning of spirits ;* 8. To another divers kinds of tongues ; 9. To another the interpretation of tongues
. But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will.”—“Now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular. And God hath set in the Church 1. first., Apostles ; 2. Secondarily
, prophets ; 3. Thirdly, teachers ; 4. After that, miracless; 5. Then, gifts of healing; 6. Helps ; 7. Governments; 8. Diversities of tongues. Are all 1. Apostles ? 2. Are all prophets ? 3. Are all teachers ? 4. Are all workers of miracles? 5. Have all the gifts of healing? 6. Do all speak with tongues ? 7. Do all interpret ? But covet earnestly the best gifts; and yet shew I unto you a nore excellent way” (1 Cor. xii).
This is all a very plain account of the Spirit's distribution of gift in the Church, and it will be observed that here, those gifts which are ostensible, are especially mentioned, as being those the exercise of which is known and perceived: we have before seen how the Scripture recognises unostensible service and gift.
It may be objected that some of these gifts have ceased in the Church, and that therefore the teaching here given must have become inapplicable ; but this conclusion by no means follows. There is no such necessary connexion between the word of wisdom and of knowledge on the one hand, and healing and tongues on the other
, that it can be said, that because we see not the one, therefore we have not the other; they are only ways in which the same Spirit has been pleased to qualify for service ; and, if He still vouchsafes some of His bestowals, we ought not to question His grace because there were other gifts which we see not at present. In the eyes of the world, the gifts here spoken of might fall under two classes, which might be termed ordinary and extraordinary; but for the saints of God to have for a moment countenanced such a distinction, shews too plainly their non-recognition of the fact of every gift being as completely of the Spirit's bestowal as were those which now we
Some look on a sentiment such as this as being fearful presumption : but are not believers now members of Christ, even as they once were ?
And does not the same Spirit dwell in them as dvvelt in the Church of old? Why then is it presumption to acknowledge the grace of the Lord, in giving still to His saints, unfaith
This expression has been continually misunderstood, as though it signified ability of judging whether a man be a believer or a hypocrite: it is often thus applied, and it is not unfrequent, when discipline in the Church, and separation from every brother that walketh disorderly, are spoken of, to hear it asserted that this desire of obedience to the Lord is a claim to the gift of the discerning of spirits. But it is manifest that the gift is simply that of discerning whether one who professed to speak by the Spirit of God, did so really, or whether it was by an evil spirit.
If the discerning of false professors by supernatural knowledge had ever been a gift in the Church, how could such as Simon Magus have been for a moment received ?
+ 1 bave affixed numerals to the three lists which are contained in this Chapter, not that the gifts in the one list correspond to those in the others, but as shewing the variety which exists among them ; we find in the three lists of gifts, respectively, nine, eight, and seven, enumerated.
Those which are common to all the three lists are these:-1. Miracles ; 2. Gifts of heal. ing ; 3. Divers kinds of tongues ; 4. Prophecy,
In the second and third lists we find, 1. Apostles ; 2. Teachers; which perhaps answer respectively to “ the word of wisdom," and " the word of knowledge,” in the first.
In the second list we find “Helps” and “ Governnients,” which perhaps answer respec: tively to "the interpretation of tongues” of the first and third lists; and to" Spirits” of the first.
The first list most distinctly takes up the gifts, the second the persons exercising the gifts.
discerning of ful as they have been, gifts of teaching and rule, through the Spirit's distribution ?* We have the gift of the Spirit bestowed on us as the indwelling Comforter ; just so may the gifts of the Spirit be given as He sees fit. Are we, because we have not every thing, to say that we have nothing ? or, are we thankfully to acknowledge the mercy of God in giving blessing, such as the unfaithful Church has not at all deserved ? It is not humility for us to question whether any gifts be still given, or whether they are of the same kind as they once were; if the Holy Ghost be one and the same, then are His gifts still bestowed ; and they are still the same in character, however little they may be allowed to develope themselves, and though they be fewer. The hindering and the grieving of the Spirit is a great sin; and this has, we question not, weakened greatly the manifest exercise of gift : but we must take heed of questioning as to present service, whether the Lord be with us or not.
1 Cor. xiv. speaks of the liberty of exercising gifts in the Church for the common benefit of all : it is plain, therefore, that we need not expect to find unostensible service alluded to in the chapter. It is a very simple exposition of the rule which was to be attended to by all churches; namely, that all things should be done to edification. The distribution of gift is presupposed, and the disorder is reproved of which those had been guilty, who looked on the gifts bestowed upon them as though they were for their own private benefit, and that therefore they might use them to please themselves, that is, for display. It is not said that the liberty of exercise is wrong far from it, but the abuse of this liberty is checked, and directions are given as to how and when gifts in the Church might be exercised. We scarcely need to say that if the present possession of gifts were denied, the instructions for their use would necessarily have no place.
The first thing for which the Apostle had to care, in Chap. xiv., was the ignorant display which some of the saints who were at Corinth, made of those gifts of tongues which they possessed. “Forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the Church : wherefore let him that speaketh in a tongue pray that he may interpret : for if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful....... If any man speak in a tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course ; and let one interpret; but if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the Church, and let him speak to himself and to God.
Another thing for which Paul had to reprove them, was the disorder in which they were exercising other gifts ; so that it appears that two or three were speaking at once ; some prophesying,” and some speaking in tongues : now if ever a case could have arisen for making restriction of ministry a desirable thing, this might be taken as the strongest which we can imagine; but Paul does not remedy the evil, by bringing in a set service, or an appointed minister; he reproves the disorder ; “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge ; if any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.” [When God vouchsafed a special revelation, (see Acts xiii. 2.) any other ministry was to give way). “For yet [i.e. ye prophets) may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted (or exhorted]. And the spirits of the prophets are subject unto the prophets, for God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints."
The remaining direction which the Apostle gives, “ Let your women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted unto them to speak,” completes the instructions for the exercise of ministry in the gathering of saints; it may have been that this was a disorder which he had to correct; and it entirely accords with that which he teaches on other occasions, “ Let the women learn in silence with all subjection; but I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (1 Tim. ii. 11, 12).
There is one other passage which it will be needful to examine as to this subject. In Eph. iv. the Church is spoken of in its blessed connection with its ascended
Ordinary and extraordinary persons, possessed of gift, are not to be confounded with the similar distinction which is so commonly made as to gifis. To the case of Apostles in the Church, we shall allude presently.
of “ Ye” cannot here mean the whole of Saints, for Chap. xii. teaches us that all are not prophets ; “Ye all” must be, all ye who are prophets.
Head, and the especially gifted persons in the Church, are mentioned as being thenselves gifts bestowed upon the Church as a whole; “ Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ ; wherefore he saith, when He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men....
.... And He gave some Apostles, and some prophets, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the Saints [i.e the perfect joining together of the Saints) for the work of the ministry [diacovias] for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” In this passage we have Christ as the giver, the Church as the receiver : the Spirit, who is the distributor
, only comes in, as it were, incidentally from the mention of gift. Apostles stand here first, holding an official place to which none else can be entitled ; they are the foundations of the heavenly city (Rev. xxi. 14), even as in this Epistle they are spoken of as the foundations on which the Church is builded.* It is easy to say that a passage such as this has no especial bearing upon us, unless we affirm that there are, or there ought to be, apostles in the Church, now as its living guides and authoritative instructors ; now we deny most unequivocally, the inference which has thus hastily been drawn from this passage ; for the Apostles of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, belong as much to us, as they did to those who were living on the earth at the same time as they were. We have their written testimony: we know them as the foundations; we have the revelation of truth through them, for to them it was revealed for us.
Whether“ prophets” in this passage belong to some one particular time of the Church, as to their living existence or not, may, perhaps, be justly questioned; but, it is probable, that the abiding gift in the Church is here mentioned, even as in the Epistles to the Corinthians and Romans.t We suppose that none can question that “evangelists, pastors, and teachers,” are still, in the grace of God, vouchsafed to the Church (however their services may have been hindered) the first to testify to the world concerning the blood of Jesus, and the free salvation which there is to every sinner who believes in him: and the two others for the edifying and instruction of those who are already, by the quickening operation of the Holy Ghost, gathered into the flock of Christ.
We must not so look at some particular kinds of gifts, and service, as to forget others, and therefore we will refer to one of those passages which beautifully illustrate the varied character of service, and the importance which belongs to those members which might be easily overlooked. It is written in 2 Cor. i. 10, 11, “In whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons, thanks may
be given by many on our behalf.” Here is an Apostle looking for strength and deliverance from God, through the labour in prayer of those over whom the Lord had set him. Who can say that the blessing consequent upon his successful labour in the Lord, will not be shared by many a poor despised Saint of Corinth, many a solitary widow, or weak Christian servant girl P1 Thus repeatedly does the Apostle of the Gentiles seek to be profited by the service in prayer of those to whom he wrote, so in Rom. xv. 30, he speaks most earnestly—“Now I beseech you, brethren,
" And are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets” (ii. 20).
" As it is now revealed unto his holy Apostles and Prophets by the Spirit" (iii. 5). We refer to these two passages as shewing the foundation of the building, and the communicators of revelation to be the Apostles.-Observe, it is των αποστόλων και προφητών, and τοίς åyloïç átrootóoig avtoữ vai pontais ;- not two classes, but one, Apostles who are Prophets,” in these two passages; quite different from the distribution of "some Apostles, some Prophets," which we find in Chap. iv.
+ See the preceding Note.
$ Few things are more to be desire for the well-being of saints, than that sisters should know what their true place is; they are not called to that ostensble service in the Church to which their brethren may be; teaching and ruling are alike prohibited to them, and yet they may in so many things be the blessed instruments of quiet ministry, that one might almost ask whether they have not the most privileged path of service. It is easy for them or for any to mistake their gifts, and therefore their place of service, but one thing is most plain, that no one can plead the authority of the Spirit of God, for running counter to His written testimony.
for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me,” &c. (See Eph. vi. 18; Col. iv. 3 ; i Thes. v. 25; 2 Thes. iii. 1; Philem. 22; Heb. xij. 18).
The preceding remarks have been simply niade with reference to service in the Church of God, as described in those Scriptures which speak of the glory, blessing, and privilege of the Church, as being one in Christ, her risen Head. It is thus only that service can be viewed aright, for if we were to look to the state of things in that which calls itself the Church on earth, we should see nothing which could at all instruct us as to this. Instead of members filling their own respective places in the body, instead of healthful energy and action, we see confusion and disorder stamped upon all around. There may, it is true, be that which man may call order ; there may be a great regularity in the working of the system; but it is “ ordinances after the commandment and tradition of men" that we see, and not the manifestation of the life of Christ, and the Spirit setting the members of his body each in its own place of service. To this contrast to the order of God, which is so lamentably prevalent, reference may be more directly made on some future occasion. Meanwhile it may suffice to say, that as true service in the Church of God flows naturally from the knowledge of what that Church is, so from ignorance of this arises the complicated system of man's devising which has been substituted.
There is this blessing in the exercise of any gift of whatever kind it be, that it is done unto Christ as being a member of his body; it has in itself a reference to the glory of the Lord Jesus at the Father's right hand, for it is as having ascended thither that he has sent down the Holy Ghost to dwell in the Church collectively, and in the saints individually, in order to enable them to serve.
Those to whom ostensible gifts have been imparted, are bound in responsibility to their Lord to use them faithfully; and just so those to whom a less conspicuous (but not therefore a less blessed) place in the body has been assigned, have in the same responsibility to fill their places; and they have to remember that their true blessing lies in their acting in their own proper sphere.
Doubtless it is felt by many, that much of confusion and difficulty of apprehension prevails as to the actual distribution of gifts at present, and the liability which there is for believers to mistake their respective paths of service. Into this we cannot go at present in detail, but it will be well for us all to remember, that our Father's ears are open unto us, and in every thing in which we lack wisdom, we have Him to go to in order to obtain it. In the present sad state of the Church, it is well for saints to feel their weakness; provided that it throws them in humiliation of soul before the Lord, looking to his grace, without denying at all the actual blessing really possessed by the Church.
Jesus remains the same, so does the Church as in God's mind, as being preserved in Him. To these truths we must look in estimating what service is, remembering that we have the Holy Ghost, whose guidance will lead aright every single-eyed saint who acts in subjection to the word, in the desire of rendering glory to God.
TRUE POWER. There is nothing which the mind of man so naturally or so habitually covets as power : and, it may safely be said, there is nothing which the grace of God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, so earnestly desires to communicate to man, as as power. But the former has no power, nor can the infinite resources of Divine power be communicated to him (willing as the God of grace is), until his empty channels are brought into connection and subjection to Him who is the Fountain of power.–And does not this meet the eye on every side ? Man, who was made in the image of God, set too in lordship on the earth, the poor prey and sport of adversity ; ruled over by Satan ; carried away by the course of a world, whose idle mirth tickles but pleases not;—subject to sickness, sorrow and death ; and tyrannised over even by self, with all its wayward fickle ways; utterly without power ; and yet ever in search of it, but never finding it, because seeking it everywhere save from God. But this is not all-as the first step of the search began in sin and plunged man into weakness, so every successive step of the way is sin, and plunges into