When reading the Scriptures, attention to context is especially important. Context helps us to understand what is really being said to us in order to more clearly see the details of the big picture being conveyed in the verses. The passage that we will go through today shows how believers are to pursue the unity in the body of Messiah that has been explained in the previous chapters.
Verse 7 begins with the word “but” which indicates that what is coming in the passage relates to what was said previously. Paul says “unto every one of us” indicating that he is now addressing every believer and not just some smaller group within the congregation.
As believers, all of us have received salvation by grace, we’ve been rescued from death by the grace of God, a gift to all who believe. Yeshua went to the cross. This was our entrance into the kingdom, made possible by Yeshua taking our sins upon his shoulders, dying and rising back to life from the dead. Paul continues by saying that each of us have received grace to the extent that God has desired and here he is referring not only to the grace by which we’ve been saved but to the grace by which we receive the gifts of the Spirit. Different have received this grace to different extents and in different ways that fit us personally like the perfect pair of shoes. In this way, each of us receives the grace of God differently.
Verses 8–10 speak about the process by which we have been saved, Yeshua’s death and resurrection. In faith, we receive different spiritual gifts. In the Greek of verse 11, the word that has to with being “given” spiritual gifts doesn’t have any indication of past, present or future — it is timeless. This is because it is connected to what was said before, a continuation of the discussion on unity in the body of Messiah. The spiritual gifts are given as a means of building the Kingdom alongside others in the body of Messiah with other spiritual gifts.
The gifts are divided into 2 groups:
- Leadership gifting
- Gifts that help us to serve one another
- Apostle — The apostle is sent to a place by God to establish a congregation, preaching the Good News, and helping believers to grow spiritually. The apostle is someone who builds from the ground up a community of believers in a place (something that requires persistence, boldness, studiousness, leadership skills, and spiritual discernment).
- Prophet — The prophet declares the Word of God with reference to things that God is doing that most people are oblivious to. Prophecy is, at its core, a call to repentance or something that God desires for us to do in order to lead others to Him. In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul encourages us to embrace prophecy but to test everything (not to blindly accept false prophecies). The gift of prophecy requires boldness, an ability to explain, an ability to discern new things in the spirit, and a familiarity with Scripture.
- Evangelist — Evangelists are people who see those who do not yet believe and desire to welcome them into the Kingdom. Evangelists are kind of like someone walking around with a hammer (which represents the truth) and in the moment that someone is ready for the truth, they’re hitting them with the full force of it to the extent that they are ready for it. All of us have been called to share the truth about God, but there are some who God has bestowed with the gift of evangelism. This is a gift that requires boldness, an ability to be alone, being quick to give up rest and comfort, and a warm personality.
- Shepherd/Pastor — In the west, the role of the pastor has often been confused as being the person in charge of a congregation. The New Testament expands on things already detailed in the Bible before the New Testament. The shepherd/pastor is part of the leadership team in the congregation, but his role is more supposed to be that of someone who looks after the needs of people within the congregation because he sincerely cares. The pastor is someone who watches out for those in unfortunate situations and cares for them in their time of need.
- Teacher — This is someone who is gifted in shedding light on the Scriptures in ways that people might otherwise not see clearly. One key focus for the teacher is to help people avoid false doctrines and assist them in embracing right doctrine.
Even if we don’t think we have what it takes, God equips us to do what is needed. If He is calling you to do any of these things, He will equip you as you are faithful to respond to His call. Verse 13 tells us that these gifts are given “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Messiah”. It is good for all of us to desire to become evermore like Yeshua “unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Messiah”. The gifts of the Spirit help us to grow and be built together in love and strengthened together as the body of Messiah.
When we come to faith, we receive the spiritual gifts from God that he prepared for us from the foundations of the world. The purpose of these gifts is to assist one another in growing and maturing in our relationship with the Lord and so that we will be built together and strengthened as one. We depend on one another to walk in these gifting, and none of us can fully mature and grow in faith without the activation of these gifts in the other members of the body of Messiah. We spread the Good News not only in word but also in deed by activating the gifts of the spirit in our life and through a lifestyle in which we grow evermore like Messiah in our behavior, in our encouraging of others, as we help one another, and as we strengthen those around us and operate from a place of love.