The Exercise of Gifts

No one can receive a gift from the glorified Head of the Church without being intended, by the Head Himself, to use that gift for the good of the whole assembly of God. The gifts given by Christ, who has gone up above the heavens, in Ephesians 4, are given to the assembly, and there can be no narrower sphere of exercise than that of the entire Church.

Supposing that the great truths of Psalm 68:18, and Ephesians 4: 8 et seq. are accepted, and that the scope and intention of the Giver be entered into, a very practical question will suggest itself at once; that is, How shall a gift be exercised in such a day as the present one?

There seem to be hopeless obstacles in the way. Arbitrary rules, binding a great number of Christians to human societies and "churches" on the one hand; the general dispersion and startled condition of the sheep on the other, are alleged as reasons for precluding the free work of the ministry, even when its importance has been acknowledged. If we look around, how many true gifts will be seen lying useless (perhaps I should say, not in use); and how many a man who has received such from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, has been prevented from carrying out the true exercise of the gift by the efforts of the enemy!

The heart of Christ for the assembly, and the good of the assembly, will surely be subjects that will occupy a loyal soul who has received a gift from the Lord; and the practical question will arise as to how he is to use this great treasure in obedience to the Head, for the good of the whole body.

I suppose that it is hardly necessary to insist upon the fact that a true gift from Christ will always be recognised by those who are walking in subjection to His will. The old illustration of the means of discovering whether a man be truly a baker will serve here. If there be any doubt whether anyone is to be recognised as a baker, the question will be settled at once by the fact of his making bread that is good and digestible. If his customers find that they thrive upon his rolls and loaves, they are right in supposing that he is a baker. There is a kind of analogy in true ministry; for there, where souls are fed, strengthened, and encouraged, there is certainly a gift.

And now let us look at one or two things in connection with our first question.

It is well to see that there can be no jealousy or party work in serving the Church of God. The very thought of such service will put the man himself in the background, to look for the exaltation of Christ and the prosperity of the sheep of the flock of God. I believe that there will have been deep and true exercise before God before entering truly into the service of the Lord and the Church; a kind of experience through which the great apostle of the Gentiles had passed, when he said: "By the grace of God I am what I am." (1 Cor. 15:10.) This will not be learned without the acceptance of death, no doubt; and it is only after that one has seen the end of oneself as a religious "somebody," that one can leave to the Pharisees the occupation of seeking the high places in the synagogue.

If a truly gifted person sees grace working more in another he will rejoice over it, and magnify that grace. It is said that angels are not jealous of one another, and I suppose, indeed, that they are not; but angels have never known the grace of God, and if we are in the sense of this, there can be no self-exaltation. The exercise of a gift will entail humility, and the coming down to meet the subjects of ministry. Perhaps the greater the gift the more bending down; as in physical things, a tall man will bow down to help a child with a better grace than a short one. The vertebra of a dwarf are very much against bending or making a proper bow.

And then there will be the sense that there is room for all. A lesser gift will be kept from the snare of saying that it does not belong to the body because it is not a hand, or some such member; and a greater one cannot say to a smaller that he has no need of him. I think one might use the illustration that the lights, large and small, are to burn together, and contribute to one illumination; and there is no reason why a smaller lamp should be snuffed out because larger ones be near. The ground is very wide ("until we all come to the full knowledge of the Son of God," and see following verses in Eph. 4), and woe be to him who would interfere or restrict the use of the gifts in any way that is not according to the scope of the Giver. It is wonderful to see how the Lord will bless and use gifts that He has given, even in this day of confusion, when there is real dependence upon Him.

There is one more thing that I should like to notice, and it is this, that when there is the sense of having received of the Lord a means of conferring light and blessing to His own, there will be a corresponding sense of the entire work being the Lord's. There will be the repose of heart in leaving results to Him; there will not be, there cannot be, any forcing of the truth on anyone, but there will be faith (in the exercise of ministry) in the Giver, so that He may operate in those to whom the truth is ministered; and whilst there will be activity of service, there will be true waiting upon Him that the blessing may be consummated. There will be a sense of having no peculiar or personal views to uphold or defend, so that even if there be opposition to the truth, the opponents can be left to the Lord.

May He awaken our hearts, so that His interests may be ours, and that we may not make the actual state of the Church on earth a pretext for remaining in an inert state. He, the Giver of the gifts, shall give grace and faith to the end, in the exercise of the very gifts themselves. May we all be reminded in receiving the ministry of the Word, that all gifts proceed from the exalted Head for the good of the whole Church! E. L. Bevir.

A man may speak; but, if his lips be not anointed by the Holy Ghost, his word will not take permanent root. This is a solemn consideration, and … it should lead to much watchfulness over ourselves, and much dependence upon the Holy Ghost. What we need is thorough self-emptiness, so that there may be room left for the Spirit to act by us. It is impossible that a man full of himself can be the vessel of the Holy Ghost.

C. H. Mackintosh.