The significance of the church in our world cannot be overstated. Understanding the church’s purpose and function will help you understand your role and reason for being connected to a local church.
In a previous post (The Church: Word!), I share the church’s foundation and one core principle of church structure. Today we are going to look at the function of the church.
In Romans 12, Paul stresses the importance of no longer conforming to the patterns of this world. Another reason for our transformation is church participation. What makes our participation possible and effective is God’s grace!
Grace is the vehicle through which salvation and every gift from God are delivered. Therefore, the work of grace produces humility in us.
Without humility, pride takes over and deceives us into thinking more highly of ourselves than we should. Paul calls on every believer to think with sober judgment and avoid becoming an “ego-holic.” Pride is misguided thinking because it places our value in what we do and not in our identity as men and women of God.
Paul shares the analogy of a body and members to establish the church’s purpose and function. A body is a single unit composed of many parts, both seen and unseen.
The first distinction he makes is that “members do not all have the same function.” We have received one grace, but it manifests itself differently in people.
If you have faith, God has deposited gifts within you.
The emphasis in Romans 12 is on everyone doing their part. In verse five, he announces that we are members of one another. This means that the church’s effectiveness is contingent on everyone using their gifts to achieve maximum impact.
No matter who gets the credit;
- Your success is my success.
- Your victory is my victory.
- Your blessing is our blessing.
The Greek word used for grace is Charis meaning underserved favor. The word for gift is Charisma, which comes from the root word Charis, grace.
Our gifts and the ensuing success we have using those gifts are the results of God’s grace. That’s why we can’t take all the credit for our accomplishments.
Paul lists seven gifts commonly found in any congregation meant to inspire us to contribute to the body.
#1 Prophecy. This is defined as foretelling and forth-telling.
Foretelling was used in the Old Testament to speak of events to come. In the New Testament, we see foretelling in the Book of Revelation as God gave John a vision of things yet to come.
Forthtelling is to affirm what God has said, and this is the context in which Paul uses the word. We see this in 1 Corinthians 14 as Paul talks about prophesy and the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues.
#2 The gift of service. The word diakonia, translated service, was a broad expression of service.
This is a gift that all of us possess. If you have a pulse, you are equipped to serve. Service tends to be overshadowed by other gifts, but it may be the most crucial.
This was a crucial gift in Paul’s day because they didn’t have a complete manuscript of the Bible or access to the internet or commentaries. They relied on teachers presenting the Gospel message and the gift of prophecy to assist them in applying it.
#4 Exhortation. Exhortation is not a commonly used word today, but it means the act of encouragement, to comfort, or to console. Exhortationfocuses on the actor as much as the action.
If you have the gift of exhorting, use it to the fullest. You have the potential to bring out the good in others, to inspire them to be who God has called them to be.
It’s impossible to have too much encouragement!
#5 Contributes. This is a person who gives without looking at how they will profit from giving.
Have you ever received something from someone who conveyed a sense of you owe me? We see this behavior in the world, but it’s not to be that way with us. Remember, that you were given those gifts to give.
#6 Leadership. This describes a person entrusted to manage people and especially God’s people. Leadership is to be stewarded with excellence. This gift should not be taken casually, knowing that God has entrusted you with His resources and people.
#7 Acts of mercy. This has to do with helping those in need, relieving anyone in distress.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Matthew 5:7
It’s often the small acts of mercy that make a big impact on people in need.
Paul adds cheerfulness to characterize acts of mercy. Cheerfulness translates from the Greek word, hilarotes, which is where we get our English word hilarious. It’s an abundance of joy. Helping those in need fills the recipient with an abundance of joy.
Don’t think your gifts are too insignificant to make a difference. God has designed the church to function at full capacity when everyone is doing their part.
That makes your gift significant and necessary.