Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether 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.-Rom. 12:6-8.
Paul's epistle to the Romans includes in chapter 12 a list of the spiritual gifts. Its placement in the book is significant. It follows Romans 6, 7, 8, and Romans 12: 1, 2, passages which emphasize identification with Christ and complete committal to Him. It is also locked into a context relating to the body of Christ (v. 5) and love (v. 9).
My intention is to delay treatment of prophecy until we deal with the section commonly called "the nine gifts of the Spirit." A discussion of teaching is also delayed until a later chapter.
Now here we are confronted with "ministering." What is it? How does it function? The anatomy of the word makes it clear that to minister is to assist, to help, to communicate, to serve. Certainly there are some who minister but do not preach too well.
I recall hearing Stan Ford, a Brethren evangelist, speak about Jason, an obscure brother who ministered in the early church (Acts 17:5). There are certainly those today who minister also - some in the word and doctrine, some in other ways. One translation renders it, "The ability to render practical service." It may be the ability to lead others to an experience which has been preached. I count as a friend an evangelist who might be called an ordinary preacher, but he speaks with authority. And when he actually can minister to seekers through prayer, counsel, and sometimes through the laying on of hands, he is at his strongest, his most effective, and his best, ministering.
Paul also speaks of giving, in the context of spiritual gifts. Indeed, he himself may have had the gift of imparting spiritual gifts because he said to the same people earlier, "I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift" (Rom. 1:11). While many will associate this gift with liberality and financial resources, I feel it is larger. It no doubt encompasses more than money and goods.
But it surely does include the giving of our goods (1 Cor. 13:3) and what is commonly called Christian stewardship. Though sometimes rich believers show evidence of this gift, more often it functions in the life of a very average Christian.
Once in the home of a millionaire I was asking the Lord for financial help. It did not come through the generosity of the rich man, who still remains a warm friend. Instead, during a visit in the home of an impoverished believer I had a bill pressed into my hand.
May I suggest that "God's givers" are especially in tune with God's plan for their substance?
Also mentioned here in Romans is exhortation. Evidently it is closely related to prophecy because it is included in the biblical meaning of the word. Generally the idea of an "encourager" comes across.
It seems clear that both Peter and Paul exercised this ability (Acts 2:40, 20:2). While oratorical qualities seem not to be especially present, exhortation can be measured by acceptance and effectiveness.
A dear man of God, who had a long and effective ministry, was in my view an extraordinarily effective exhorter. In fact, that is what he claimed to be. All through western Canada there are those who have found the Saviour through his ministry. He was jolly and sometimes jumbled in his logic, but beyond a doubt he was one of God's great exhorters.
The early Methodists appointed exhorters in their congregations. Their procedure would be worth emulating, especially when it becomes clear that the Holy Spirit is appointing exhorters.
Finally there is he that "ruleth." From the Greek comes the idea of giving aid. The Spanish Bible uses the enlightening word "presidir," which means to preside. Most of us who are evangelicals have been to enough church services to know there are chairmen and then there are chairmen. There are song leaders and then there are song leaders. Some who have no ability to preside may be perfectly fine and sincere Christians whose only notoriety is that they make other people uncomfortable.
The apostle James exemplified the gift of ruling. In the New Testament church he was well able to calm an impetuous Peter and wisely direct the infant church.
A present-day example known to me is a youth leader who personifies the cheerful ability to preside. The congregation is at once at ease and happy when Bill rises to lead the singing or to speak. Every evangelist who seeks an effective and wide ministry must certainly have on his team a man "that ruleth." It makes for order, cheerfulness and an abundant entrance for the word of God.
And it is interesting to note that Paul, by his choice of words in the original, labels these gifts, several of them somewhat mundane and ordinary, as charismata, obviously on a par with the more spectacular and supernatural charismata of 1 Corinthians 12.