Dear Prayer Partners,
Sincere thanks from both Rachel and me for your desire and commitment to pray each Wednesday for our prodigals and revival among us.
Last week I shared a few thoughts on spiritual gifts from Romans 12, and closed with verse nine, “Let love be genuine.” This means without hypocrisy; as the NLT puts it, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.” The conclusion was that in order for spiritual gifts to fulfill their intended goal, there must be an atmosphere of authentic love. This got me thinking!
There are four main lists in the New Testament where gifts are mentioned: Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4. In each list, or next to each list, the subject of love is brought up. How significant is that! In Romans 12, love is to be real and not fake. In the church at Corinth, they had forgotten this important detail and were using their gifts for self-promotion and advancement. It had become a contest of who was better than the other. As a result, there was wholesale division and the formation of cliques among the believers. Therefore, the gifts were not benefiting anyone, and Paul needed to write a full chapter on the subject of love. (It’s important to read 1 Corinthians 13 on a regular basis.) Paul reminds us that we may have a great speaking ability, amazing power, and even a willingness to sacrifice to the point of death, but if love is missing, he says, “I am nothing…I gain nothing.” There is nothing for God and little of lasting value for His people if our gifts are not exercised in love.
In Ephesians four, the gifts are given by the risen Lord. “That is why the Scriptures say, ‘When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people’” (Eph.4:8). In this list, the emphasis is on the person behind the gift: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, and the teachers. Here, the purpose of the gifts is clearly delineated—equipping the saints, building up the body of Christ, and the maturing of believers to be like Christ. How can this be done? Again, it must be done in love. Each of these gifts involves speaking in order for the gift to function. This is why Paul emphasizes, “Rather, speaking the truth in love” (Eph.4:15). You may have the gift to teach, but if you don’t do it in love, you will drive people away from Christ rather than to Him. Paul goes on to say, “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Eph.4:16). How wonderful to see a group of believers working together, full of love!
As Peter talked about the gifts, he prefaced his remarks by saying, “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet.4:8). Peter recognized, from personal experience that we are very capable of sinning and thus hurting one another. We need to love one another earnestly, which will result in a willingness to forgive rather than highlight and spread the offense. Because of God’s nature, we know that the expression, “Love covers many sins,” is not hiding, or overlooking sin, but rather dealing with it in a gracious way, so that further damage is not done. If love is not present, you won’t show hospitality like Jesus, or speak like Jesus, or serve like Jesus, as verses nine to eleven indicate. So despite our weakness, failure, and brokenness, we seek to carry out God’s desires with hearts like His: hearts of love!
Thanks again for praying and may God continue to encourage and enable you in the special gifting that you have.
Bryan and Rachel