The Service Gifts
Dr. Joe Temple


Open your Bibles, please, to I Corinthians, chapter 12, in which we are going to find some of the service gifts mentioned. In verse 28, we read:

I Corinthians 12:

28And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

We call your attention to two words in the verse which describe the service gifts about which we wish to speak. The first word is the word helps and the next word is the word government. Yes, these two words describe two of the service gifts which the Holy Spirit bestows on believers. As you look at those two words, you don't see anything unusual about them, do you? You don't see anything supernatural about them. You don't particularly get excited about them, but I want to say to you, Beloved, on the authority of the Word of God, that they are two of the fifteen gifts of the Holy Spirit, and they ought not to be looked upon with any less favor than some of the more important gifts, so-called.

As a matter of fact, in I Corinthians, chapter 12, the Lord Jesus Christ compares the Body of Christ to the human body, and he speaks of the feeble members of the body. He said that the feeble members of the body receive less notice than do the other members of the body, but those feeble members oftentimes are more necessary. I might speak to you, as we will later on when we get to the so-called sign gifts or the supernatural gifts about the gift of healing, and if I were going to talk to you about the gift of healing, you could have visions about tremendous things happening and a lot of attention being received about the persons involved in such a gift. But when I talk to you about the gift of government or the gift of helps, it seems rather prosaic, practical and uninteresting. I reemphasize: It is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

Turn to Romans, chapter 12, because we will find the other service gifts in this second list of the gifts of the Spirit. We begin reading in verse 4:

Romans 12:

4For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
5So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
6Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
7Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
8Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let us go back over these two verses and mention to you service gifts. Our time is limited, and we will think only about service gifts, realizing that some of these gifts we have already noticed in relation to the spiritual gifts, and some of them we will be noticing in relation to the sign gifts by and by. Notice the word ministry. Usually, when we think of the word ministry , we think of a preacher. We say to the young people sometimes, “Are you going to enter the ministry?” We mean by that, “Are you going to preach?” Well, that isn't the meaning of this word. This word ministry describes one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit which is a service gift.

Then you will notice in the middle of verse 8, “He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity.” Yes, there is a gift that is called giving. Some people call it the gift of liberality, but it is very definitely a gift of the Holy Spirit.

You will notice the phrase, “He that ruleth, with diligence.” This word should be considered with the word government, which we notice in I Corinthians, chapter 12. So it isn't another gift. It is just another way of expressing the practical gift of government.

Then you will notice another service gift; “He that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.” This is a gift of the Holy Spirit—to show mercy with cheerfulness.

Let me suggest to you that we examine the gifts in the order in which they were found in the verses at which we looked. I don't know that there is any particular significance to the order, but we will look at them in this fashion for the simplicity of the approach.

The Gift Of Government

Let us examine the gift of government. This is a gift of the Holy Spirit. The word government comes from the Greek word kuburmasas. This Greek word is an interesting word as far as the picture back of it is concerned because it is used in classical Greek to describe the captain of a ship. It's used to describe a helmsman. It's used to describe a pilot. So if the word means anything at all, it means there is a gift of leadership which is given to certain individuals by the Holy Spirit. This gift of leadership can vary in a great many ways, but since it is listed under the word governments, and since it is associated with the word rule, —“He that ruleth let him ruleth with diligence”—we believe that it is a reference to the eldership of the Church; for the word ruleth comes from the Greek word trophistame, which literally means “to be able to stand before individuals.” The idea of ruling with diligence is the idea of ruling with eagerness and the idea of ruling in a business-like manner. Someone may say, and rightly so, “Well, I don't know if that necessarily means that this refers to the eldership of the church.” Let me give you another reason I think it does. Turn with me to I Timothy, chapter 5. In Paul's first letter to Timothy, you will find that he is talking about elders—those who have the rule of the church, the oversight of the church, the leadership of the church—and he uses this very same word. If you will look at verse 17, he said:

I Timothy 5:

17Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

You will notice the statement, “Let the elders that rule well.” I repeat, I believe that there is a gift of government given to certain individuals, and I believe it is those individuals who should serve as elders in the assembly. I believe it is a very grave mistake for men to be elected or appointed or however it might be done to the office of elder unless the Holy Spirit has given him that gift. I believe that one of the greatest problems we face in our churches today is that individuals are appointed, selected, for this particular office without any regard to their gift. Even though they may be good business men, even though they may be loyal, fine Christians, even though they may be the most faithful members of any given assembly, it does not necessarily follow that they are material for elders. If they do not have the gift, then they ought not to serve.

I would suggest to you that if you have the responsibility of the selecting of elders, you wait upon God until you know that the person you are going to choose actually has the gift. If you are asked to serve as an elder, then I would suggest to you that you search your own heart in the light of the Word of God; and if you do not have the gift, you recognize it, and you refuse to accept the office. If you give a reason for it because you are asked for such a reason, simply say, “I do not believe that I have the gift that would enable me to serve in this particular capacity.”

Where deacons are given the same position as elders, as is true in many churches, then the same thing that could be said about eldership or the bishopric could be said about the deacon. We would insist earnestly today that all sincere believers keep in mind that the ability to govern, the ability to lead, the ability to pilot the ship of Zion through stormy waters takes more than native ability. It takes a special divine enablement of the Holy Spirit.

The Gift Of Ministering

Another gift that we want to consider with you today is the gift of ministering. You found it listed in Romans, chapter 12, verse 7. We pointed it out to you there. The Scripture simply said if you have the gift of ministry, then you should wait upon your ministering. I remind you that the word minister comes from the Greek word deaughcoyneah , which may be a bit shocking to you but very literally rendered and so rendered in classical Greek, means “an errand boy.” I can think of a number of deacons scattered across the world today who would resent being called an errand boy and who would resent being an errand boy.

I have held Bible conferences and meetings in churches where the board of deacons certainly did not look upon themselves as errand boys. They looked upon themselves as the big boss who told the preacher what to do, and if he stepped out of line even one step to the right or the left, that was as much as his job was worth. I have had preachers say to me time and time again, “How do you have the courage to preach all of God's Word? What do your deacons think about it?” I always answer the question, “If we had deacons, I wouldn't care what they thought about it because my responsibility is to the Lord.” But if deacons are acting in the manner and the capacity that God intended they would act, then they will be servants, for that is exactly the meaning of the word. They will be errand boys in relation to the Body of Christ. May I suggest to you that this is a gift of the Holy Spirit. I don't want you to forget that. It takes divine enablement to be a deacon in the sense that the Scripture presents itself here, a divine enablement to be a minister in the sense that we are describing here. May I remind you also that just because we have followed into the habit of using the word deacon , this ministry of which we speak is not related to the office of deacons exclusively. It is related to any kind of serving that is done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

There is a sense, as I said, in which all men or women can find places of service because they have certain natural attributes for that service, but I am not talking about that. I am talking about individuals to whom the Holy Spirit gives the gift of ministry. There were such men described in Acts, chapter 6, and that is where we get the idea of the selection of a special group of people called deacons . You will remember in chapter 6, verse 1:

Acts 6:

1And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.

What was this daily ministration? The parceling out of the food for widows. Now listen to me very carefully. Why did this trouble arise? I believe it arose because there were individuals who were handling it who did not have the gift of ministry, individuals who were handling it upon whom the Holy Spirit did not bestow the gift of ministry because if you take the time to read the rest of the chapter, you will discover that the Holy Spirit instructed them to seek out men full of wisdom and full of the Holy Spirit who had this particular gift, the gift of ministry. When they selected those men, there were no more problems related to this particular ministration.

We would ask you to turn to Hebrews, chapter 6, and notice verse 10, as I remind you that God takes notice of the individuals who have this gift of ministry. I would remind you as well that when we speak of the gift of ministry, we are not speaking of something which is necessarily exciting or unusual or will necessarily make the headlines in the paper. You may have to wait until eternity before anybody realizes that you had this gift of ministry. In Hebrews, chapter 6, verse 10:

Hebrews 6:

10For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

I would suggest to you, Beloved, that we wouldn't have to have visitation night if people would seek the Holy Spirit about the gift of ministry. I would suggest to you that we wouldn't have to have committees appointed to look after the sick if individuals would search their hearts and find out what gift the Holy Spirit had bestowed upon them because remember, the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon every Christian some gift, and in some instances more than one gift; but if you searched your heart, you might discover that you have a gift of ministry, and God could use you in an abundant way.

You might never stand up and give a public testimony. You might never stand up and teach a Sunday School class. You might not ever sing a special solo, but you have a gift of ministry. Are you thinking with me today? Isn't it strange that some of us seek out certain gifts and have prayer meetings and ask the Lord to give us a certain gift and never one time have a prayer meeting and ask the Lord to give us the gift of ministry? Isn't it strange when it is left up to us, there is so much of the flesh in all of us that if we are going to desire the best gift, that best gift to us, interpreted in the light of our own flesh, is usually the outstanding gift, the gift that brings the greatest amount of attention to ourselves. How much better it would be if we would quietly wait on our ministry as the Scripture says.

If we had people who waited on their ministry, we wouldn't have to be appointing committees to get things done. The Holy Spirit would see to it that they do get done. I say this humbly today, and I trust you will understand the spirit in which I have said it. This is the manner in which I have always tried to operate in our ministry, to believe that God would raise up among the believers at Abilene Bible Church individuals who had certain gifts of the Spirit which would be exercised and could be exercised. In all these years that we have been here in the city of Abilene, I have seen God do that. I have seen God raise up men and women with the gift of ministry. You didn't have to tell them to do anything. If there was a need, they did it. Of course somebody said, “Doesn't it take a little longer that way?” Yes, it takes a little longer that way because most of us are kind of slow to move at the moving of the Holy Spirit. But, Beloved, it is a lot more peaceful. There is a great deal more blessing related to it.

The Gift Of Liberality

The next gift that I want to consider with you is the gift of giving or what I refer to as the gift of liberality . Some people refer to it more often as the gift of liberality. The reason for that is in Romans, chapter 12, verse 8, where it says:

Romans 12:

8Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

This word simplicity is from the Greek word oppalatace , which is translated by that word liberality in a number of places in the Bible. There is a sense in which we all have the responsibility of giving—everybody; nobody is excluded. “As the Lord prospers, so let him give.” That is what the Scripture says. The giving should be systematic, not haphazard, not according to whether you can or whether you can't; but on the first day of the week, let each individual lay aside as the Lord has prospered. So nobody is excused from giving. Let's get that settled, but there is a gift of giving. There is a gift of liberality which God bestows upon some people, keeping in mind that the word gift is really a word for divine enablement. You will remember when we talk about the gift of liberality, we are talking about the Holy Spirit's enabling people to share with the Body of Christ the material things which they have. The word giving comes from the Greek word metoddidobtee , which means “to share with.”

I believe that the reason that God prospers some individuals with material goods is that they might share it with the Body of Christ. Actually, I believe it is a gift of the Holy Spirit. The sad thing about it is that they don't recognize it, and they are selfish enough to think that God is just letting them make a lot of money to buy something new and to raise their standard of living. I repeat, there is a sense in which certain native ability could cause a man to make a lot of money. I am not talking about that. I am talking about the fact that the Holy Spirit can divinely enable a person to be prosperous, giving him the gift of giving so that he will be able to stand where God has placed him in the assembly for the glory of our God.

May I say this again, and I trust you will accept it in a humble sense. We have been in the city of Abilene many, many years. We have had no money drives. We have had nobody backing us, nobody endowing us, and I don't know how many people have said to me, “Joe Temple, how do you do it?” I don't know how many people I have had say to me in the last few months, “How did you build that new sanctuary? You are not a great big group of people over there. You are just a little group of people. How did you do it?”

I said this then, and I say it always, “Because God has given to us not one person, but God has given to us a number of people who have the gift of giving. They realize that the reason that God has prospered them is not so that they can do something more for themselves, but so they can do something more for God.” I don't say this critically. I say it as kindly as I know how. You don't have to have any tithing program where you have people within the assembly who recognize that God has given them the gift of giving. You don't have to sell any bonds when you realize that people have the gift of giving.

I would say to you today, Beloved, that you might search your own heart. You may have been saying for a long time, “I just don't have any gift. There is nothing I can do for the Lord.” You might have the gift of giving. You will notice if you have it that you should associate something with it because we are told in the passage of Scripture which we have already looked at, if you exercise the gift of giving, then you should do it with simplicity.

This word I have already pointed out to you is translated by the word liberality , but it is also translated by the phrase, self-seeking —that you do this without any self-seeking. You see, if you have the gift of giving, you are not going to call the preacher and say, “I'd like to give you fifty thousand dollars, but I would like for you to call it the Podunk Memorial Baptist Bible Center.” You don't put any strings on your gift if you have the gift of giving because you do it without any self-seeking, and you do it with liberality and readiness to the Lord.

The Gift Of Showing Mercy

Another of the practical service gifts is the one which was described in Romans, chapter 12, verse 8, the gift of showing mercy. This is a gift. This is a divine enablement of the Holy Spirit. The word mercy comes from the Greek word electgo, and it is translated in other places by the word compassion . You understand that the word compassion means “to sympathize with.” Now listen to me carefully without offense. We have a habit here, a custom, and most churches have it, I think, when death enters a family, the ladies get together and fix one of the meals during the time that the folk are bereaved because of all of the extra needs represented. Folk call you and ask you to fix a dish, and you do it. It's no real problem for you one way or the other. You are glad to do it. That's not the gift of showing mercy. That's a native ability to meet a need, but the gift of showing mercy is a gift which is bestowed upon by the Holy Spirit which gives you a discernment so that you can recognize that there is a need in someone's heart and that need can be met with a compassionate word.

Will you suffer an illustration which I have given to you before. I give very few illustrations, but when they make a point, I repeat them. Many, many years ago in the very early days of my Christian life, I was very, very discouraged. I was ready to throw the whole thing over. I decided that there wasn't anything to this after all. I didn't know what was wrong. I didn't know the Bible. I didn't know how to walk in the Spirit. I was defeated. Many, many reasons I felt as I did, but I was ready to give it all up. I remember walking outside of my house and back of the garage praying, crying, discouraged. I didn't know anybody was around anywhere. All at once, I felt an arm around my shoulders. This dear man, I can see him now—tall, gray-headed. I never will forget his name. All of you know how I am with names, but I never will forget this name. His name was Simon Blackbird. He has been with the Lord a long, long time now. He slipped his arm around my shoulder and he said, “Joe, I just want you to know that I sympathize with you. I just want you to know I am praying for you.” He shook my hand and left. He didn't lecture me. He didn't even know what was on my mind. But I say, if it is possible for one man to save a man's relationship with the Lord—I don't know that it is, but if it is—that man saved my relationship with the Lord that day because from that day I decided to go on with the Lord. I believe that man had the gift of showing mercy.

Did you notice how this was expressed in the Scripture? “To show mercy with cheerfulness,” which means promptly, which means willingly. It is not a matter of waiting until somebody asks you to do something. It is a matter of being so endowed by the Holy Spirit that you are able to see the need and then meet it.

These gifts that I have been talking to you about are rather prosaic, aren't they? There is nothing unusual at all about them, but will you think with me as I ask you, do you think it is right for you, for me—ordinary human individuals with limited facilities of perception—to demand from the Holy Spirit that He give us one particular gift out of all of these fifteen? If it is right to do that, will you tell me why it is that individuals don't demand that the Holy Spirit give them the gift of showing mercy, the gift of helps, just being around to help when there is a particular need?


I would suggest to all of our hearts that we wait upon the Lord, that we desire earnestly the best gifts and let the Holy Spirit decide which one is best for us.

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