For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you … We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. (verses 3, 6)
Gifts. Given. Grace. Faith.
These words leap off the page as Paul paints a picture of the effective functioning of the Body of Christ. Bottom line: grace is the motive force, activated by faith, all of it sheer gift, given by the Lord himself.
Paul, as prophet and teacher and apostle, speaks words of encouragement and instruction to the Roman church about how to function in the gifts God has given. As he does, he himself models the very thing he wants the church to understand: “by the grace given me I say to every one of you …” (verse 1). The gifting he demonstrates is motivated and energized by grace, plain and simple.
Grace. That’s how the gifts function. Which is entirely obvious from the Greek word Paul uses for “gifts” (verse 6). The word “charismata,” typically translated as “spiritual gifts,” has “charis” at its core, the specific Greek word that means “grace.” What Paul is talking about here are gifts of grace, plain and simple.
Doubling up on the meaning, he tells us this grace is “given,” clarifying what is obvious, namely that grace comes from a source beyond ourselves. All we can do is receive, with open hands and heartfelt gratitude. And the only source adequate for the need is the Lord God himself.
Having modelled the concept, Paul then nails it down by stretching it out as a general principle: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us” (verse 6). Each of us who is in Christ has received this gifting of grace. It’s not ours to boast about. Rather, it’s all by grace. So, with open hands, receive.
But once received, we’re to actively engage that gift through faith. Paul states this specifically in reference to the gift of prophecy: “If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith” (verse 6). He goes on to list many other examples in the succeeding verses (gifts of serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, mercy), and as he does, the implication is clear: they, too, are to be exercised “in proportion to faith.”
What is this “proportion”? Where does it come from? Earlier, in telling us to think of ourselves with sober judgement, Paul has said to do so “in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (verse 3). It turns out that this “measure” is itself a precious gift, given by the Father. Don’t squander it. Trust the Lord for what he has given. Press into it fully. He gave the spiritual gift by grace. Likewise, he has given the faith to operate that gift. Step into it.
All of it is gift. All by grace. All through faith. Receive. And bless Christ’s Body, even as you yourself are blessed.
Father, thank you that you are the giver of every good and perfect gift, overflowing with grace, empowered by faith, which is itself a gift. Thank you for gifting me that I might be of service in the Body of Christ. Strengthen me by your Spirit to engage with the full measure of faith you have given. To the glory of Jesus. Amen.
Reflect: Be aware this day of “gift,” “grace,” and “faith.” Watch for opportunities to press into each. Receive.