1 Peter 4:7-11
But the end of all things is at hand: be you therefore sober, and watch to prayer.…
I. THE NUMBER AND VARIETY OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS IN THE CHURCH. The term "gift" represented by nine different words in the Greek, occurs in three different shades of meaning, viz., "a present," "an offering to God," and "a personal endowment." The last is evidently the gift of our text.
1. Every believer has a gift, and his own gift (Luke 19:13; Matthew 25:15). The little wheels in an engine, the little stones in a building, and the little gifts in the church, occupy a place for which the larger would be quite unsuitable. An organism is healthy only when all its members perform their functions; and efficiency in the whole is the gross result of efficiency in every part.
2. The gifts of the Church are a revelation of the manifold grace out of which they spring. "Gifts," the most general class, such as wisdom, knowledge, and faith, are referred to the Father. "Administrations," a more limited class, as healing, prophesying, and speaking with tongues, are referred to the Son. "Operations," the smallest class, such as miracles, discerning of spirits, etc., are referred to the Holy Ghost. Individual character determines largely individual spiritual gifts. A ray of light passing through a crystal heptahedron is broken up into seven different colours, one of which is appropriated by each of its seven sides. So entering the prism, the Church, the white light of the Spirit is analysed into its various elements, and each soul appropriates the particular one that suits it. The gifts acquired are thus as various as the cast of the acquiring minds.
II. THE MEANING AND PURPOSE OF THE BESTOWAL OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS ON THE CHURCH. "Ministering it among yourselves." This is a noble thought.
1. It implies that we study our gifts, and so make no mistake as to the work we are fitted to do. This is a matter of great importance. The navigation of a ship will be bad with children at the ropes, and a landsman at the helm. A ministry without ministerial gifts is a machine incapable of moving, even if the power were there.
2. It implies that we train and cultivate our gifts so as to use them at their best. He would be an eccentric farmer who allowed his land to lie untilled because the soil was rich. It is the richest land and the highest gifts that, being cultivated, will yield the best return. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the Alpha, but not the Omega, of qualification for spiritual work. The apostles had this to begin with, yet were all carefully trained by Christ, and Paul warns Timothy to "stir up" his gift.
3. Our gifts in their most highly cultivated form are all to be used for the common good. "Among yourselves." The perfection of reciprocity exists in the religious life (Matthew 5:23; Matthew 7:12). There is no place for selfishness in it; the peculiar quality of it being the look outward, instead of inward (Philippians 2:4; 1 Corinthians 10:24). The selfish soul shrivels and dies, and the maimed and weakened Church suffers in all its functions. It is incredible the moral power that is lying dormant in the Church. The power once latent in steam and inaccessible is now evoked by the millions of horsepower daily. The power once hidden in electricity is now in exercise in every village, carrying on swift and silent wing the thoughts of men across the continents, "and their words to the world's end." But the ten thousandfold greater power sealed up in the napkinned talents of idle Christian people is still unreached. What an amount of religious machinery would be in motion if an ecclesiastical James Watt or Stephen Gray would come and unlock this magazine of spiritual force! Nothing could stand against it. Darkness would be dissipated, sin would be jostled off the earth, and misery would spread its sable wings and fly away.
Parallel VersesKJV: But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.