Jeremy Sarber

A diversity of spiritual gifts

But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift (Eph 4:7).

This grace is unique to Christ. The word is charis, which is not the same as charisma (often translated, gifts). This grace is the enabling power that allows our special gifts to function as God intends. Paul says, Grace, charis, was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift (Eph 4:7). It is measured out to each one of us according to God’s purpose. In other words, we receive his enabling grace to whatever degree is necessary for the operation of Christ’s gift.

Each believer has unique gifts given to him or her by God, and it is God’s grace that enables us to use those gifts. As Paul points out, God does not give this grace in equal measure to each one of us. He precisely provides us with the amount of grace we need for any gift he intends for us to use for his glory and the building up of Christ’s body.

It’s similar to a statement Paul made in Romans 12:

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. (Romans 12:3)

To be clear, Paul is not talking about saving faith. Instead, we might call it faithful stewardship. It’s the degree of faith needed to exercise our unique spiritual gifts. Since we do not all possess the same spiritual gifts, God does not give all of us the same degree of grace or faith.

If we understand this point, we are better equipped to understand the diversity of Christ’s body (i.e., the church). By God’s intentional, sovereign design, we are not all the same. Perhaps you’ve noticed. Our perspectives, abilities, gifts, and understandings are different. We need to acknowledge that fact because it is by God’s design.

My favorite analogy is the one that compares the body of Christ to music. In many hymnals, you’ll notice there are four lines of notes. Each line represents a different singing part—soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. With a few exceptions, most of us sing the soprano part since that is the song’s primary melody. As great as singing in unison can sound, it doesn’t compare with the sound of four-part harmonies. When the soprano, alto, tenor, and bass parts all come together in a song, it sounds angelic. It’s incredible.

God has designed the church to function similarly. He does not give the same measure of grace to each person. As a result, we have different gifts. We are equipped to perform various functions. We even have varying degrees of comprehension. The Spirit does not open up every truth to every believer.

We see an excellent example of that in Luke 24. As many times as Jesus taught his disciples about his suffering, death, and resurrection, most of them could not understand it. Peter even argued with Jesus over it. Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you,” Peter said (Mt 16:22). He outright rejected the notion. Why? There’s a vital clue in Luke 24 where Luke tells us:

Then Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:45-47)

The truth of his suffering and death was always right in front of them. The Old Testament prophets had written about it long ago, but the disciples couldn’t see it. Though they heard it from the mouth of Christ himself, they couldn’t believe it. Why? God had not opened their minds to understand it yet. God operates by his sovereign timeline, and he opens our minds to specific truths at specific times.

Do you remember Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1? He said:

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe. (Ephesians 1:16-19)

Keep in mind that he’s writing to born-again believers. Jumping back a few verses, we read:

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it. (Ephesians 1:13, 14)

Paul is writing to born-again believers whom the Spirit of God has already sealed until they acquire their eternal inheritance. Even so, he prays that God might give them revelation and insight. He prays that their hearts would be enlightened to a fuller comprehension of Christ and his gospel.

In the church, we have different gifts and functions at different times. God gives us varying degrees of understanding of spiritual things. That’s not a reason to be proud, and it’s not a reason to be jealous of one another. It’s just a fact we need to acknowledge. If for no other reason, we need to recognize our diversity because it is our diversity that works to build up the collective body. You can see that as you continue reading Ephesians.

For now, know that we each have specific gifts and capabilities through which we are to serve in Christ’s name. Peter said it this way:

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. (1 Peter 4:10, 11)

Notice how Peter designates our spiritual gifts. In general, we have either speaking gifts or serving gifts. I don’t think the Bible ever gives us an exhaustive list of potential gifts, but perhaps they all fit into one of those two categories. Regardless, our gifts come from God’s sovereign grace, and we are to use them for his glory as we serve others.