Gifts And Talents

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 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.”   – Ephesians 4:7

Grace To All

David A. Womack, in his excellent book, Breaking The Stained-Glass Barrier (Harper & Row, New York, 1973) states on page 7 concerning Ephesus,

“Paul established a permanently successful church that was to be the center of the Christian faith over much of the next two centuries.  Even though the apostle John was to warn the church against losing its first love, it would rekindle its flame and remain a burning candlestick for a very long time.  In Ephesus would live the aged apostle John, and from nearby Smyrna would go forth the second-century missionary Irenaeus to preach the gospel in Lyons, France.  The seven churches of the Apocalypse would be only a few of the many churches scattered all through that end of Asia Minor, and the New Testament letters to the Ephesians, the Galatians, the Colossians, and probably those of I and II Timothy and Titus were directed to this general area.  Paul’s biographer, Luke, said of the apostle’s ministry at Ephesus, “So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed” (Acts 19:20).  Whatever Paul did at Ephesus needs to be repeated again throughout the whole twentieth-century world.” 

He then goes on to say on page 16, “The city of Ephesus was a center for commerce, learning, sports, and a particularly popular religion.  Paul knew the importance of establishing a strong base at the very hive of Asian activity, so he carefully mapped out his strategy and initiated a well-devised plan.”

It is no wonder then that we can find so many verses in the Book of Ephesians that focus on the equipping of the saints for their personal ministries.  Paul describes how the body, which is one and operates by the power of one Spirit, functions perfectly in balance.  He tells how each part contributes what it can and how that contribution helps in edifying the rest of the body.  He says that the body is perfectly joined together and that it is built upon the strong foundation of Jesus, the apostles, and the writings of the prophets. 

We began this chapter by quoting Ephesians 4:7.  It is important to note the placement of this verse and see how it is sandwiched between Paul’s treatise on the unity of the Kingdom of God (one body, one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God) and the passage concerning the church’s leaders being mindful to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.  In other words, verse 7 becomes a pivotal passage of a pivotal letter written by the great apostle. 

To begin to understand the verse, we need to start by re-thinking our definition of grace.  Though commonly explained as “the unmerited favor of God,” the biblical use of the word goes a little further.  The unmerited favor of God is always attached to a specific purpose.  This is simply to say that what God blesses us with is there for a reason.  Whether we call it a blessing or a curse, it’s there for a purpose in our lives.  And this is how Paul starts off the verse: to each of us is given grace (some gift of God for an intended goal) in a certain amount (according to a measure.)  How much is given?  What is the measure?  Paul tells us that it is given in proportion to the gift of Christ.  How much did Jesus receive, and how much did Jesus give? 

These questions are easily answered by looking back at Ephesians 3:20: “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.”  The giftedness in the grace of Ephesians 4:7 is basically without limits.  The only real limitation comes from within each believer.  We are empowered in equal proportion to our personal desire to be useful in the kingdom.  We are not saying here that we can force God to appoint us to a certain position or authority, but we should realize that the magnitude of one’s personal ministry (whatever that may be by the will of God) is without limits.  If one is called to pastoring, for example, he can be a great pastor.  He may not necessarily move on to any other post in the church, but he can excel in pastoring if he so wishes.  Should he be blessed to move on to another ministry, he can expect to be used in a great manner once again.  Speaking of his own ministry, the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:9-10, “For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” 

God is the One that decides on the grace bestowed on us leading us into ministry, but our own desire to be used by the Lord in that ministry controls much of our destiny.  And according to Ephesians 3:20, that which is available to us for personal ministry is beyond our wildest dreams!  In writing to the Galatians in chapter 2, verse 20, Paul clarifies the source and the strength of the power that worked through him in his particular part of the harvest field, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” 

If this is true, then how vitally important it is for church leaders to recognize and carefully put to use the gifts and talents given by God in the Church in the best way possible!  The Apostle Peter said it this way in 1 Peter 4:10, “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”  The zeal and desire that helps us to be used in these gifts is not enough, however.  As we said in the definition of grace, there must be a reason for the gifts and the talents.  Paul told the Church in 1 Corinthians 14:12, “Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.”  There’s the word “edifying” once again.  The building up of the body is the true goal, knowing that the offshoot of that quality growth is growth in quantity also. 

As we saw in the preceding principles, there is a definite order to this “evolution” of church development.  It starts with a vision that outlines and focuses on the revival that God wants to give.  It points to the potential harvest and explains the need for moving ahead in a clear calling and in a specific direction.  Then, equipping the saints must begin to take place.  As we try to equip every member in the assembly, we need to understand that not all will receive it.  But those that do become equipped will also become our nucleus saints.  They will begin to emerge after being shown what is available to them in terms of service in the kingdom of God.  Those three principles bring us here to the fourth, the need for carefully searching for and recognizing how God gives gifts to the membership of the Church for real spiritual ministry. Let’s look at five considerations in regards to this “Best Use of Gifts and Talents.”

About Jim Poitras

Enlisiting, educating, equipping, empowering, and encouraging members, ministers, and missionaries in apostolic global missions. Director of Education/AIM