26 Sep The Good of Others & The Glory of God
Our final question in relation to getting off of spiritual welfare is why has God gifted you? It doesn’t take long before a conversation about using the gifts we’ve received turns inward to focus on all the benefits that the person using their gifts derives from their service: about how good it make them feel, about how personally fulfilling it is for them, or about how they get more out of it than the people they are serving. One problem with that line of thinking is that this text in 1 Peter flies directly in the face of those who would turn the use of their spiritual gifts inward and focus upon what they get from it, how their gifts make them feel, set them apart, or make them special. Notice in this text Peter says nothing about God gifting you so you could standout, feel special, be fulfilled, or serve yourself. Peter says rather that God has gifted you for the good of others and His own glory.
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. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. – 1 Peter 4:10-11
The Good of Others
In verse 10 Peter says that every Christian should employ their gift “to serve one another”. This means that if you have been gifted…
· …to teach you should teach for the building up of those who are listening and not as a means to platform yourself.
· …to lead you should lead for the good of those who are under your leadership and not as a means to elevate yourself above them.
· …to serve you should serve for the good of those who are in need and not as a means to being personally fulfilled.
· …to give you should give for the good of others around you and not as means to make yourself feel good.
Whatever the gift(s) you’ve received from God, they are to be used not for your own good but for the good of others. Just imagine if an entire church were to use their speaking or serving gifts for the good of “one another”. There would be a beautiful interrelated self-giving dynamic operative in that church where no need goes unmet because everyone is serving with an eye to addressing the spiritual, physical, emotional, or relational needs of the people next to them. It would be a church where you could fully and freely use the gift(s) you’ve received without worrying about whether or not your needs would be met because the people next to you would be using the gift(s) they had received to meet your needs! It would be a church where the majority rather than a minority of the members would be involved in the work of ministry. It would be a church that reflects the beautiful, interrelated, and self-giving dynamic that has eternally existed in her Triune God. Are you using the gift(s) God has given you for the good of others?
The Glory of God
Notice in verse 11 where Peter tells us that when we speak as “one who speaks the oracles of God” and serve by “the strength that God supplies” it brings glory to the Giver of the gift. There are at least two ways that the proper use of God’s gifts brings glory to God:
1. Gifts of Speech
Only when those in Jesus’ church who have gifts of speech take seriously their responsibility to speak as “one who speaks the oracles of God” rather than sharing their profound insight or the “nuggets” gleaned from the latest best selling book they’ve read can they speak in such a way that God gets the glory. Consider the words of Martin Luther in his commentary on 1 Peter:
If he speak, he is to take heed that he speaks the Word of God. Here both teachers and hearers are concerned, that the former teach nothing in the church and the latter hear nothing aside from the Word of God. For here [in the Bible] the theme is not how to govern a country or a people, a house or a court, or how to build and plant. The theme [of the Bible] is how may man be delivered from sin, acquire God’s grace, and be saved—how God is disposed toward us and the like. This cannot be learned from any jurist or philosopher, nor from the pope with his canons…However if it is to be made known to you, then you must learn it from the Gospel of Christ…Therefore whoever is now called to speak in the church—to preach, teach, and exhort—should speak what Christ has spoken and commanded on subjects relating to our personal salvation.
Luther says that the Bible is not about how to run a nation, how to run a family, how to practice law, how to build a house, or how to plant crops. Luther says that the Bible is about how fallen, broken, and sinful humanity can be saved by a loving, just, and gracious God. When the attention is taken away from the life-giving and life-sustaining power of the Gospel message revealed on every page of the Bible and given to the self-help insights and wisdom of men and women, then the glory for what is said belongs to those individuals to whom the insight and wisdom belong. If however, when those with the gifts of speech in the church, stand to teach, preach, admonish, exhort, and urge they take every precaution to make sure they are saying what God has said, then God gets the glory. Only if we are saying what God has said will God be glorified by what we say. There is a wealth of helpful content that pertains to particular topics that may make for good seminars, but that content should never be passed off as a sermon by those who have been gifted to stand before God’s people, open the Scriptures, and say, “Thus saith the LORD”. That helpful content may support what God has said, but, in the church, can never replace what God has said. If you have received gift(s) of speech, are you saying what God has said so that He receives the glory?
2. Gifts of Service
Only when those in the church who have gifts of service use those gifts for the good of others with the strength God provides can they serve in such a way that God is glorified. If we serve in our own strength, by our own abilities, and with our own wisdom, we get the glory. If we are certain that we know exactly what decisions need to be made, what work needs to be undertaken, and how to best meet the needs around us without ever seeking clarity, direction, or discernment from God, then we get the glory when things go well. However, when God opens our eyes to see a need and places a compelling burden on our hearts to meet that need and we say, “I have no idea how to do this, where to start, what will be needed, where the resources will come from, or what the results might be, but I will put one small step of faith in front of the other to move in the direction I feel called to go”, and then God shows up and begins to provide resources, direction, or insight and things begin to change, grow, and transform…God gets the glory. Consider the words of Peter Davids in his commentary on 1 Peter where he notes that the word supplies in verse 11…
…originally meant…‘to defray the expenses for something’. In 2 Corinthians it indicates a God who ‘will supply and multiply your resources’. Here [In 1 Peter] the Christian sees a service that God wants done. One can try to do it out of one’s own zeal and strength, a recipe for ultimate ineffectiveness and burnout, or one can depend on that strength which God provides; God has ordered the job done; God will pay the expenses, be they material, physical, or emotional. He ‘backs up the act’ of the Christian who is being a good steward of his gifts in dependence upon him.
Very simply, when God writes the purchase order he also writes the check! In fact, this is how God acts through history as he uses people as His agents to accomplish His purposes who did not feel qualified, did not have the right connections, or were uncertain of the results: Moses had a list of excuses, David was a shepherd boy out in the fields, and Nehemiah had no idea if he would be allowed to return to rebuild Jerusalem. This is why the best leaders are those who have a sense of calling, or compelling burden if you will, but aren’t sure they know what they are doing! That sense of not knowing is what creates dependency upon God’s strength. If they are certain they know what they are doing and how to navigate every twist and turn then they get the glory, but if they step forward knowing that they only way this given endeavor will turn out well is if God shows up, then He gets the glory. If you have received gift(s) of service, are you serving dependent upon the strength God supplies so that He receives the glory?