Tabletalk Subscription
You have {{ remainingArticles }} free {{ counterWords }} remaining.You've accessed all your free articles.
Unlock the Archives for Free

Request your free, three-month trial to Tabletalk magazine. You’ll receive the print issue monthly and gain immediate digital access to decades of archives. This trial is risk-free. No credit card required.

Try Tabletalk Now

Already receive Tabletalk magazine every month?

Verify your email address to gain unlimited access.

{{ error }}Need help?

In his commentary on Ephesians 4:15–16, John Calvin said,

The truth of God ought to have such a firm hold of us, that all the contrivances and attacks of Satan shall not draw us from our course; and yet, as we have not hitherto attained full and complete strength, we must make progress until death.

Calvin’s words are especially encouraging in light of his practical exhortation that believers in Christ should endeavor to “make progress until death.” Calvin’s incitement is merely another way of understanding what the Apostle Paul exhorts believers to do: “Grow up in every way into him who is the head [of the church], into Christ” (Eph. 4:15).

What Calvin calls “making progress,” Paul describes as “growing up.” Notwithstanding the differences in nomenclature, what both Calvin and Paul are declaring is accomplished through sanctification. Sanctification is that process by which the Spirit of God works in and through believers to make them more like Christ (Rom. 8:29). As a result of the progressive work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, our lives should so consistently reflect the character of Christ that we bear fruit that gives tangible evidence to both the church and the world that we are His redeemed people.

Every true believer in Christ has been uniquely gifted by God for the building up of His church (Eph. 4:11–13). Paul calls that gifting being “equipped” (v. 16). Scripture is clear that believers in Jesus Christ, being motivated by their love for God, are to apply their spiritual gifts in joyful and selfless service to one another (Col. 3:23–24; 1 Peter 4:10). To that end, Paul refers to the church metaphorically as a “body.” This is a perfect metaphor, since it helps us better understand how we each, as an individual “joint,” to use Paul’s term, uniquely contribute to the growth, health, and vitality of the church to which all believers belong (1 Cor. 12:18).

Christ has called each of us to employ the gifts that He has given us in sacrificial service to His church.

God has endowed every believer with certain gifts for the purpose of building up His body, the church (Eph. 4:16). We do our Savior a great disservice when we fail to use the gifts that He has graciously imparted to us toward that end. The significance of that very weighty responsibility is underscored by John Owen, who described such gifts as

that without which the church cannot subsist in the world, nor can believers be useful unto one another and the rest of mankind, unto the glory of Christ, as they ought to be. . . . Gifts of the Spirit give the church its inward organic life and its outward visible form.

Yet employing our gifts to serve the body of Christ addresses only one side of the ecclesiastical equation—namely, our actions. There is also the matter of our attitude. For better or worse, every action that we take comes with an attitude. The reality of the relationship between attitude and action is apparent in God’s Word in such texts as Philippians 2:14, where we are commanded to “do all things [action] without grumbling or disputing [attitude],” and 1 Peter 4:9, where we are told to “show hospitality to one another [action] without grumbling [attitude].”

We are to lovingly employ our spiritual gifts in the building up of the body of Christ, but it is impossible for us to do so apart from the power of the Spirit of God, who imparts those gifts to us to begin with (John 14:16–17). You and I can do nothing apart from Christ (15:5). That reality should keep us in a posture of contrite dependence on God, for by means of His Spirit He alone indwells us, equips us, and enables us to serve His church in a manner that brings glory and honor to Him.

In terms of believers’ using their giftedness to help the church grow, the central matter is love. Unless our service to the church is motivated by love, a love that mirrors the sacrificial heart attitude of our Savior, who, while we were still unredeemed sinners, willingly emptied Himself for our sakes (Rom. 5:6, 8; Phil. 2:5–8), our gifts, regardless of how vigorously exercised or well intentioned, are ultimately of no benefit to the church or, for that matter, to the world to which we have been commissioned by Christ to be shining lights (Matt. 5:14–16; 2 Cor. 5:20).

Charles H. Spurgeon wisely and unambiguously said:

We are not saved by service, but we are saved to service. When we are once saved, thenceforward we live in the service of our Lord. If we refuse to be his servants, we are not saved, for we still remain evidently the servants of self, and the servants of Satan.

Christ has called each of us to employ the gifts that He has given us in sacrificial service to His church. We are to do so not only in our actions but in our attitudes as well. As the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:3, “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

The Heart Is an Idol Factory

Quick to Hear and Slow to Speak

Keep Reading Trials, Temptations, and the Testing of Our Faith

From the August 2023 Issue
Aug 2023 Issue