The task of finding and using your gifts begins with understanding where gifts come from and what they are for. Paul says, “There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, on God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph. 4:4-7).
The Inescapability of Fatherhood
Gifts come from fathers. And every good gift and every perfect comes from above, coming down to us from the Father of Lights with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning (Js. 1: 17). In the Old Testament, the inheritance a son received from his father was specifically vocationally oriented. The double port of firstborn sons was for the purpose of carrying on the father’s household (Dt. 21:15-17). This was the point of the “birthright” and the blessing of the firstborn son in the story of Jacob and Esau (Gen. 25:29-34, 27:1-38ff). This is also demonstrated in the fact that God calls Israel his “firstborn son” and delivers him from Egypt with plunder (inheritance) in order to build the tabernacle. This general concept is seen in the parable of the sons: the younger son asks for his inheritance from his father and squanders it riotous living. The older son squanders his inheritance in pharisaical living. This parable also illustrates the fact that we live in a very broken world full of failed fathers and sons. And this is why the Old Testament closes with Malachi’s glorious promise: And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction” (Mal. 4:6). Don’t miss the fact that the curse on the land is related to the failure of fathers to pass down gifts to their sons and the failure of sons to receive them. The gifts are for the good of the world. So this is Paul’s point in Galatians where he jumps up and down on the fact that all who have placed their faith in Christ have become sons of God and Abraham’s children (Gal. 3:25-29). And if we are Abraham’s children, we are heirs of the promise: God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Gal. 4:4). And God gives good and perfect gifts to all of His adopted sons.
He Gave Apostles
While the Bible does speak of gifts in terms of qualities and skills (e.g. the gift of hospitality, healing – 1 Cor. 12), here Paul speaks of God giving particular people: And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists… (Eph. 4:11). Fundamentally, God gives the gift of His Spirit into our hearts: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…” (Rom. 8:15-17) So God gives the Spirit in order to give people to the Church for the blessing of the world: to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:12-13). The word there for “ministry” is the same word for “service” or “deaconing.” It’s the same root word the apostles use in Acts 6 when they appoint six men to serve the tables for the widows. It’s also a Greek synonym for the word used in Genesis 2:5 and 2:15 to describe Adam’s job in the garden: to work/serve. In the beginning, God gave the man to the garden to serve it, to do the work of ministry in it. Adam disobeyed God and so his labor was cursed. From that point on, the work of man could either be done under the blessing of God in freedom or under the curse of sin in slavery (e.g. Exodus). The central thing to get is that in the New Covenant in Christ, God is in the process of making a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). The ministry of reconciliation is as big and as broad as the world God made, and in Christ, we have been granted the resources for this mission. And those resources are principally people filled with His Spirit. The challenge of finding where you fit in the Body/World really comes down to figuring out where you can return the most praise. This is why Paul says elsewhere to Christians, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17).
Finding and giving your gifts begins with knowing the Father from whom all good and perfect gifts come from. In Adam, everyone has an inheritance of death, futility, and empty striving. In Christ, God offers you the inheritance of perfect and righteous sons in His perfect and righteous Son. The center of that inheritance is His very own Spirit, the power of His endless life dwelling in you. This in turn equips you to minister that life to the world, to serve, to give, to turn every good work into praise. This is ultimate freedom, to grow up into the stature of Christ, the fullness Vof Him who fills all in all.
|ALL 2017 Post-College Life Conference Talks|