“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:” – 1 Peter 4:10, ESV
One of the most liberating truths about the Christian life is that it is not about you. Your life is to be poured out in service of the greater good — loving your neighbor and loving God — and only by living this way can you find the abundant life Jesus promises those who follow him.
While at first glance this may seem counterintuitive, a close look at the purpose and function of gifts from God in the New Testament can help us see this reality. By looking at two texts, we learn three important truths that empower Christian living.
1. Gifts From God Are Given to Benefit the Body of Christ
In Ephesians 4:11-13, Paul explains the following to the churches around Ephesus:
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 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.” – Ephesians 4:11-13, ESV
Did you catch the key idea in verse 12? God has given certain offices (apostles, prophets, etc.) to the church that are equipped and empowered with gifts to build up the body of Christ. Such God-given talents and gifts are also detailed in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11.
“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” – 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, ESV
The key insight here is to note that the gift that is given is not about the individual office or person. Rather, the gift is entrusted to the Christian with the idea that it will be exercised for the bigger and grander goal of building up Christ’s church. But what does this mean?
2. Gifts From God Help the Church Mature
Ephesians 4:13 outlines what it looks like for the body of Christ to be built up. Maturity involves the church experiencing unity in faith and the knowledge of Jesus, so that the church becomes more and more like Him. Peter explains it this way in his letter:
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” – 1 Peter 4:10-11, ESV
3. Their Ultimate Purpose Is God’s Glory
In other words, the gifts you are given are best used when they help others love, support the church and learn more about Jesus. We are here to help spread God’s Word and should continue to seek the greatest use of our gifts from God. All of this has a further and even greater goal: God’s glory.
Why All of This Is Good News
The reason that all of this is good news is that a proper understanding of the purpose of God-given talents and gifts frees the Christian to exercise his or her gift without falling into any number of traps. For example, knowing that your gifts are given to you for the good of others frees you from the paralyzing trap of finding identity in performance.
Your identity is not your gift and your value does not rise or fall based on how well you use it. You’re liberated from any concern to make a name for yourself through your gift and freed to simply bless and strengthen the church through the obedient exercise of it. There is great freedom and motivation in this because our eyes are lifted beyond ourselves to the ultimate good — God’s glory.
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.