The Spirit's Gifting
The final section of Acts 4 highlights the importance of linking our deeds with our words. Just as the disciples prayed that God would give them grace and strength to continue to speak his word with all boldness, so also they continued to act in accordance with the very word that they boldly proclaimed. And yet, their good deeds within the community were not acts of individual heroics but works appropriate to their situation and gifting by the Holy Spirit. In this situation, they continued to support one another materially so that God’s church might be made stronger even in the face of opposition from the ruling religious authorities of the day. In short, both by word and in deed, the disciples sought to persevere to the end amidst suppression of the gospel.
For this reflection, I want to think through some Scriptural data on the Spirit’s gifting of the followers of Christ. Why are we gifted? How exactly are we gifted? To what end are we gifted? We’ll take some time to think through these questions in light of the testimony of God’s Word.
First, the Spirit gifts for the building up of the church. When Paul says, “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph 4:7 ESV), he is reflecting on the consequence of Christ’s triumphant resurrection and Christ’s vindication by the Father. As we saw in Acts 2, ten days after the ascension of our Lord, Christ poured out the promised Spirit, whom he had received from the Father as a reward for his victory. Christ’s gift was principally the Spirit, but the outpouring of the Spirit included much more. Specifically, Paul continues in Ephesians 4 to say that Christ gave a number of offices for the purpose of equipping the saints for the work of ministry and the building up of the body of Christ (vv11-12). That is to say, the specific gifting by the Spirit is for the building up of the church, in part so that the Lord’s promise would come to pass that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church.
Second, the Spirit gifts according to his will. Lest we think that the Spirit’s gifting is a buffet from which we pick and choose, the Scripture reminds us that the Spirit’s gifting is his sovereign work. Paul says so much to the Corinthian church. After listing a few gifts of the Spirit, he concludes, “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Cor 12:11 ESV; cf Heb 2:4). Speaking more generally, Paul also says, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them” (Rom 12:6 ESV). The point here is that it’s not how you feel you’re gifted, but how the Spirit has gifted you by his gracious and sovereign will.
Third, the Spirit gifts according to God’s call. This is a follow-up point to the prior one. The Spirit gifts according to his will, and since he is not irrational, that sovereign gifting is done according to God’s call. That is to say, there is an organic connection between God’s call on your life to serve in a specific way and the Spirit’s gifting so that you may be equipped to serve in that specific way. This is how Paul can say in Ephesians 4 that Christ gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers. Though these are offices of the church, the Spirit gifts individuals to take up these offices. More generally, this means that the Spirit has and will equip you to serve precisely in the way that God has called you to serve.
Finally, the Spirit gifts for the glory of God. The ultimate goal of the Spirit’s gifting is the glory of God. This is achieved by the building up of the church, to be sure, but the church is not built up for its own glory. Rather, we must always remember that the Spirit gifts the followers of Christ so that they might use those gifts to the glory of God. This is how the apostle Peter succinctly puts it:
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 Pet 4:10-11 ESV)