Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. – Romans 12:6-8
Paul has just said that whatever gifts we have been given, we should use them. He then begins to list off some examples.
First, he mentions prophecy. This is inspired teaching. Anyone who spoke from God about the past, present, or future was called a prophet. In the New Testament, prophets were distinct from teachers, because teachers weren’t directly inspired in their teaching.
Those who had the gift of prophecy were to use it in proportion to our faith. Some say that this is referring to all of Scripture. In other words, prophecy needs to be compared to all of Scripture. But this seems to be taking it out of the context that we are to not think too highly of ourselves but to make a sober judgment, according to the measure of faith given to us (v. 3). Instead, this means that those who prophesy should only do so in proportion to what they are given, and not pretend to any more.
Then, he moves to service. The word that’s used here is always, in the New Testament, used in reference to service to the church, except for a few exceptions. Whatever this service is, it’s distinguished from prophesying, teaching, exhorting, etc. This is probably talking about the temporal needs of the church. It may or may not be speaking to the role of the deacon.
Those who were gifted in service were to use it in our serving. They were not to covet another gift, but use the one they were given.
Paul, then, addresses the one who teaches, that is the one who helps others understand, who imparts the gospel message to the people, who instructs the church on the principles of Christianity, laying down sound doctrine, refuting errors.
Whatever gifts Christians had, they were to concentrate their efforts on them and use them for the edification of the church.
Paul then talks about the one who exhorts. It seems like preaching in the New Testament was followed by exhortation. Exhortation is encouraging someone to do something. In the case of exhortation in the church, it’s our spurring each other on to love and good works. Those gifted in this area were to use the gift in his exhortation.
Then, he addresses the one who contributes. This is probably talking about one’s individual giving. While all are called to contribute, it seems that some are more inclined to do so, by the Holy Spirit. In this gift and the next two, Paul also addresses attitude. The one who contributes, in generosity. They were not to be like Ananias and Sapphira who wanted to seem generous but did not have generous hearts.
Paul continues, the one who leads, with zeal. This is not talking about a separate office in the church, but really anyone who leads, like pastors, deacons, etc. Those who lead are not to do so half-heartedly, but with passion.
And the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. These acts of mercy are caring for physical needs, for example of the widows and orphans. What good would it be if they were taken care of but by someone grumbling all the way?
The point Paul is making here is that it is not enough to use the gifts that we were given, but it’s also vital that we do so with the right heart. Having the wrong heart is not the gift’s fault; it’s a sin issue. It is a failure to see the church of God for who she is, or a failure to see oneself as he is, or a failure to see the gifts as they are. Whatever gift we have been given, it is in fact a gift–a treasured present from God to enable us to do an amazing thing: enact the work of His hands on this earth, among His people. What a joy! So, sheep, use your gifts and use them with the right heart.