by John Meador
Something happens to our thinking processes when we begin to evaluate what the Bible says expositionally. To say it another way, when I consider more than what a specific verse says as it stands alone, I am sometimes surprised. If I take in the context, the grammar, and other unique aspects of the verse I'm studying, God tends to give me more (sometimes far more) than I was originally looking for. It's a pleasant surprise-but one that also demands more from me and from the people I'm preaching to.
That's good. Actually, it's better than good! It moves us from a relatively shallow understanding of what God is asking of us, and reveals to us to the great detail that God's Spirit gives in the inspiration of His Word. It moves our people from the same truth they've heard a hundred times to a more complete version of that truth, and the accuracy they've experienced can build all kinds of confidence in their living.
What am I talking about? Recently, while preaching through Romans 12, I outlined the passage before planning the series, and was attracted to the subject of service that we find in Romans 12:6-8. The specific subject of those verses is the issue of spiritual gifts. The subsequent context of Romans 12:9-13, however, majors on application and expression of those gifts. Having somehow never caught this correlation between gifts and expressions, I was pleasantly surprised to be able to give our people far more than just the definition of their spiritual gifts.
Are you like me? Do you have a strong desire for people to exercise the God-given spiritual gifts we've each been blessed with, but found your teaching falling a bit short in exactly how this works from day to day?
I've struggled many times in sharing with people how the spiritual gifts function in everyday life. No matter how engaged in service I want them to be, I must first lead the way-and I can't do that without fully understanding the God-given expressions for our gifts. They are in the text, but unless I consider the text from an expositional perspective, I miss those points!
However, when I think expositionally, and when I let those thoughts flavor all I say about spiritual gifts, I bring into the message all that God intends us to understand about how the gifts He's given are supposed to function.
Those incredible verses in Romans 12:9-13 give us at least seven keys of expressing love with our God-given gifts as we serve. While I don't want to give away all the principles too easily, I do want to point out the sufficiency of the Word of God in helping us serve Him. The text of Romans 12:9-13 brings us to understand the following:
How to love the sinner, but hate the sin.
How my mouth can be used to serve others instead of to tear them down.
What a change in schedule can do to free me to serve.
What kind of attitude is best for ministry.
The kind of prayer life I must have to be used of God.
What my checkbook has to do with ministry.
How a home can be my greatest ministry asset and greatest investment.
Think for a moment what the church would be like if we could see ministry in this framework. Attitudes, words, and resources could come alive for the purpose of ministry. The church would be built up and the lost world would look on in amazement.
All those applications are present in Romans 12:9-13, but you have to think expositionally to find them and apply them accurately. But when I do that, I am on my way to giving a fuller definition of how people are to live and minister in the power of God.
I challenge you to learn to think expositionally. You might be surprised by what you see!
John Meador is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Euless, Texas.