Ephesians 4:4-6, 11-13
There are some people who possess extraordinary abilities. A classmate of mine in college is a concert-level pianist. I would marvel at his ability, and though I haven’t heard him play in years, I imagine he has increased in his ability. He is the kind of person we describe as possessing a real gift. A gift, we often think, is an ability that rises to the level of being extraordinary.
Perhaps this is why we sometimes claim we don’t have any gifts. We don’t see ourselves as possessing any particularly extraordinary ability, so we assume we must not be gifted. As we continue our series of messages about spiritual gifts I want to remind you that each person has been given a spiritual gift.
In the coming weeks I am going to go through the generally accepted list of gifts and spend a few minutes talking about each gift. I say the generally accepted list of gifts because there are some variations. In thinking about how to present these gifts, I decided to place them under three categories – Relational, Revelatory, and Redemptive – the three R’s. The Relational gifts are, obviously, those gifts that deal with relationships among people. The Revelatory gifts are those that deal with some matter of insight – something that has been revealed by the power of God. The Redemptive gifts are those that have the effect of changing the life of another person.
There are seventeen gifts I will be dealing with in the coming weeks, and I will not have the time for any in-depth discussion of each gift. What I hope to accomplish is to provide you with at least a brief explanation of each gift and also an idea or two of how those gifts can be used.
These are the gifts, according to category –
Apostle is a word we use to refer to the disciples who were the closest followers of Jesus – the original twelve plus Matthias, who replaced Judas, and also Paul. The word means to serve as an ambassador on behalf of another person.
The gift of apostleship has a number of expressions but I want to mention a couple in particular.
The first expression is that of being a spiritual entrepreneur. To explain the idea of a spiritual entrepreneur I’ll tell you about a friend of mine who is a minister, although he never set out to be a minister. I was his youth minister years ago and he used to tell me that he couldn’t imagine being a minister and that he would never do such a thing. He is the founding minister of a church and I am always impressed at his intuitive understanding of how to reach people and how to build a church. He would be a great business entrepreneur, I think, because he just has an instinct for knowing not only how to do things but also an instinct for knowing what to do. I always ask him the same question – how did you know to do that?
The gift of apostleship is one that brings creativity to people, it is the kind of gift that allows people to think outside of the box and look at life in a unique way. It is a gift that we really, really need these days, as the world is changing so dramatically and as the old ways of doing things are no longer very effective.
If you find yourself thinking we don’t have to do the same old thing. We can do something differently, you probably have the gift of apostleship.
Apostleship is also the gift of being able to reach across the things that divide people – the divides of class, ethnicity, language, economics – all those things that create divisions between people. This was a gift the apostle Paul had in great measure. While the other apostles were mostly content to stay in the area of Jerusalem and reach out to people with whom they were familiar and comfortable, Paul was the one who was talking the gospel to the larger world. Paul ventured out into the world of the Romans and the Greeks, and his doing so was very controversial within the early church. In fact, the book of Acts, in chapter 15, tells us of the Council at Jerusalem. The Council at Jerusalem was a gathering called to bring together all the leaders of the early church to try and decide what to do about all the people who were coming into the church who were different. They weren’t Jewish, they didn’t observe the dietary rules, they didn’t speak the same language, and that bothered a lot of people. Barriers were being erected to try to keep people away because of their differences. Imagine – so many people were responding to the gospel and some of the leaders were so unnerved by this great response they were trying to slow it down. Can you imagine?
Paul was the one who was reaching out to these people who were different. Peter, the one who was arguably closest to Jesus, even had misgivings about what Paul was doing. He was nervous about all these new and different people coming into the church. Paul even says in Galatians 3:11 when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Ever read that verse before? Isn’t that an amazing verse? Peter was wrong and Paul publicly confronted him about his error.
We live in a day and age when we are becoming so afraid of the other. We find ourselves uncomfortable with those who are not like us and there are those who, for their own purposes and gain, are exploiting those differences and the fear of those differences.
Oh that we could be as Paul, unafraid of stepping across cultural divides and embracing others. If you love variety, if you love to meet new and different people, if you are embrace rather than fear diversity, you have the gift of apostleship, and in our present day and age how we need that gift.
My mom has been the organist for my home church for almost as long as I can remember. She also plays the piano for the choir. My mom had some months of piano lessons when she was young but couldn’t continue because her family couldn’t afford the lessons, so for most of her life she was self-taught. She took some organ lessons not too many years ago, but it was something she was determined to learn on her own, and she did, and became a very good organist and piano player. Some years back my home church had a music director who was the wife of the minister. She was a very nice person, but was one of those people who don’t have a filter on what they say. Sometimes she would say things that bothered people but she had no clue she had done so. She once told my mom that she was adequate as a piano and organ player. Adequate. Can you imagine? How would you like to be referred to as adequate? Go home and try that one out. Honey, I just want to let you know you’re the most adequate wife ever. You’re an adequate parent. You’re an adequate employee. You’re an adequate son or daughter. Who wants to be adequate? God doesn’t want you to be adequate – that’s why he has created you as a special and unique person with gifts you can use to make a difference in the world.
You have something to offer, you have something to give to this world. Take the gift God has given you and turn it loose for the world!