When we hear that oft-repeated “body and members” sermon, we cannot help but be encouraged to know that we all have a place and a role in the work of the church. Christians had this diversity training thing down 2,000 years before it became all the rage in organizational psychology.
The notion of unity in diversity, especially among the saints of the church, seems such an obvious thing. We all share union with Christ in common, regardless of our station. The work of the church is multi-faceted, touching every area of life at every stage of life. The responsiveness of the church body to the circumstances in which it is cast requires, as Paul wrote, foot, hand, ear, eye, and more, all working together.
The human body seems to be a veritable cosmos of working parts with yet explored galaxies of fearfully and wonderfully made-ness. In just the last decade, there have been leaps in development surpassing that of Kitty Hawk to the Moon Landing in terms of our understanding of the body and how it works, revealing all manner of new complexity and design intricacy. The church has an even more amazing spiritual physiology. God conceived a Head and a Body in the eternal womb of election, before the foundation of the world, to undertake the work of his works.
Paul cites the body and members metaphor both in Romans 12:3–8 and in 1 Corinthians 12.
Douglas Moo writes in his commentary on Romans, “These texts suggest that Paul, and presumably the early church generally, recognized a small number of well-defined and widely occurring gifts along with an indefinite number of other less-defined gifts, some of which may not have been manifest everywhere and some of which may have overlapped with others.”
On those well-defined though not exhaustive lists of gifts are the obvious church roles of prophet, servant, teacher, leader, mercy giver, administrator, healer, even tongue talker and interpreter.
Tucked away in the Romans passage, amidst the enumeration of what seems to be higher octane giftedness, you will also find “the one who contributes.” (Romans 12:8b), the financial partner, benefactor, almsgiver, Serious Joy Scholarship sponsor.
The contributor, or the one who shares his or her resources, was recognized as among that small number of well-defined gifts essential to the church. The contributors are cited here, not by virtue of the scale of resources or gifts given, materially or spiritually, but rather by virtue of their unique giftedness for God’s work.
Therefore, here at Bethlehem College & Seminary, we minister to and encourage contributors because they are spiritually gifted, not because they give gifts.
In Romans 12:6–8 where Paul contrasts the different types of giftedness, he employs a variable syntax as he guides the church in the technical application of gifts, i.e., the how to “use them.” As for prophecy he urges careful attention to proportion. The deployment of the gifts of service, teaching, and exhortation seem to share a “just do it” kind of instruction: “if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation.”
When Paul comes to “the one who contributes,” the character of his instruction changes. Here he writes in qualitative terms. Rather than saying, “the one who contributes, in his contributing,” he says to do so “in generosity.”
There is a worldly generosity defined as “a readiness to give more of something, as money or time, than is strictly necessary or expected,” and God extends much common grace to the world through such generosity, even from unbelievers.
But the generosity of which Paul writes, while possessing this same practical quality, is more of a love language. In the Christian life generosity is a form of worship, which Paul says, “Let us use them.” God endows “the one who contributes” with an extraordinary spiritual gift to express generosity that produces thanksgiving to himself.
There are parts of the human body in the brain, nervous system, eyes, ears, throat, lungs and facial muscles that cause us to laugh. In the body of Christ, “the one who contributes” causes us to express thanksgiving to God.
“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:…the one who contributes, in generosity.”
Rick Segal is Vice President of Advancement
and the Distinguished Lecturer of Commerce & Vocation
Mike Tong’s Message at Chapel,
February 4, 2016: “Slowing Down, Looking Up, and Loving Our Neighbors”
Join us for our weekly Chapel Service on Thursday, February 18th, 12:45-1:45pm, featuring Luis Mendez on Hispanic Ministry.
1. We are praying toward a goal of 250 Serious Joy Scholarships of $10,000 each funded by June 30, 2016. At this writing 160 have either been funded or pledged. If only 90 individuals would fund one student each we would, by God&rsquos grace, meet our goal. If 900,000 individuals each contributed $1, God’s might would be displayed all the more powerfully.
2. Pray that the 1800+ attendees at the recent Bethlehem Conference for Pastors + Church Leaders return to their flocks and fields renewed in mind and heart and equipped to run the race for the joy set before them.
3. The Bethlehem College & Seminary academic program is intellectually rigorous and demanding. Pray that the students may pursue excellence in their studies while all the while attending to their spiritual, social, and physical well-being.