The Present Work of God

Romans 12:6‑8  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 11
"Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering; or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation. He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; lie that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness."-Rom. 12:6, 7, 86Having 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 showeth mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:6‑8).
At a time when the Lord is so manifestly gathering souls to Himself, and when the minds of His people generally are either filled with the joy of that blessed work, for the longing desire to see it, it is exceedingly important that the due balance of truth and scriptural expectation be maintained. As to the first, there is the greatest danger of this balance of things indicated in this and other passages of the word of God being disturbed. He who is used of the Lord in conversion will be in danger of viewing that as the end of all ministry, and will be prone to undervalue what in its exercise is not accompanied with the demonstrations of the same power; and, on the other hand, where the soul is rejoicing in the grace displayed, there will be the temptation, unconsciously, perhaps, to leave the quieter path of teaching and exhorting, &c., for the more exciting one of being used in conversion.
The question, whether the conversion of souls to Christ, or the edification of believers, be the more important ministry, ought never to be raised. The same Lord that said, " Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature," has also said, " Feed my sheep"-" Feed my lambs:" and where evangelizing is not in question, " Take heed unto all the flock," &c.
The more the Spirit of God is using the evangelist, or converting souls to Christ, the more imperative does the word become, " Let him that teacheth wait on his teaching,"-the more important the care for all the flock. But this, unless the supremacy of Christ be owned in the soul, will not be the natural tendency; nor will ministry tend to this where self is not put aside by the sense of the infinite grace of Christ. Doubtless, where Christ is more to the heart than self, the grace flowing to others, and by means of others too, will soften the heart and draw out the affections in care and service for those whom Christ has thus loved. No matter what channel grace may be flowing in, it makes the heart esteem Christ the more, and all on which Christ sets His stamp and name the more precious. The soul that practically feels the flowing stream of Christ's grace will neither envy others, nor leave its own path to imitate others; or pine to follow in a field to glean, because others have gathered there abundant sheaves for the Master's garner.
The expectations awakened by this wonderful and extending work of God, and in what it will issue, will differ according as the mind has been formed by habitual subjection to the divine word, or has merely yielded its assent to generally-received notions of the world's progress and a spiritual millennium.
To the mind of the writer, this work is the bright precursory indication of the speedy coming of the Lord for His saints, and the foretoken of the world's approaching judgment. That the wave of triumphant grace, which he has himself seen, in one place, and in one short month, carrying forward to certain and expected glory with Christ such multitudes of souls, which up to that time had been " without hope and without God in the world," will roll on, he has the most certain conviction. It is written, " At midnight there was a cry made, Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps."
And then, " the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage." And then, " the door was shut."
The dispensation was ushered in, or rather the Spirit's bright witness to a risen Christ was marked, by the fruits of triumphant grace-taking the Jew from his formalism, and the Gentile from his moral degradation and his philosophic pride, and setting both outside the world where they had been living, in the certain hope of resurrection, and in the practical " waiting for God's Son from heaven." And now, after long ages of darkness, with here and there, and at distant intervals, a gleam of light and a transient testimony for Christ, and then sinking back into the general gloom, the dispensation is about to close with a final living testimony to the same triumphant grace. I mean not as to doctrine only-though to the observant mind there is something pregnant in the thought of the millions in this country that are just- now being impelled to listen in theaters and public places of amusement to the testimony, more or less clear, of that same grace, which in so many places is gathering its fruits, and presenting its witness, in quickened, joyous souls from amongst the most careless and ignorant and godless, as well as making worldly professors, by the very power of the blessing around them, and which has come into their own families, suddenly to awake up to the consciousness-and to bear witness to it too-that " all things are loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord," and to feel that His coming is about presently to put everything to the test.
Instruments for this work God knows where to find; and where there are none He can create them. Oftentimes they may be such as we should not look to be used by Him, and, beyond their own sphere, are plainly to be distrusted. But the work must go forward, for " He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth."
Discussions about the possession or the want of gifts have often proved to be vain and fruitless speculations, but the humble and patient exercise of whatever power the Lord has given for edification is always owned of Him, and results in the blessing of souls. Paul's exhortation to Timothy is, " do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry;" and the direction of the passage before us is, " Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering, or he that teacheth on teaching."
The source of the gift is to be acknowledged, and its verity is to be proved, where alone it can be proved-in its exercise. Subjection of heart to the Lord is the most acceptable sacrifice to Him; and it is the essential condition of soul for being used by Him. "To obey is better than sacrifice." "Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?"
In all it should be the first concern to have the inward spiritual life keeping up with the outward exercise of power or service. Another thing to be remembered is, that prayer is the secret spring of all revivals. Not that prayer which is in the hearing of the persons sought to be affected by it, though God may use this where the heart is simple, but prayer in the secret ear of the Lord, in which all may effectually-most effectually help on this work of the Lord.
To many, perhaps, this work of the Lord is altogether a matter of surprise; while others, in the quiet study of the word, have seen the doctrine, which is now asserting its triumphant power, being silently prepared, and as widely diffused, and have long contemplated the final issue of God's present working. Nothing in the portents of the times is unlooked for, because they have given heed to the word, which shows " beforehand" what the end will be; what the end of the church's hope, and the end, alas! of the world's glory I That a night of judgment is approaching for the world, brought on by the increasing corruption of the outward profession of Christianity, has been long seen; but that which, perhaps, has been to most a surprise is, this sudden gleam of brightness before the sun of heavenly grace sets in darkness upon this poor world.
Many, who are rightly rejoicing in this grace, and are being carried forward by it, see nothing beside it, and nothing beyond it; and imagine that the stream as it flows on, may without harm obliterate all the landmarks of distinctive truth. This is human infirmity. Grace does not destroy truth, nor does the multitudinous conversion of souls destroy the privileges and character of the church of God. The blessing is of God, and should be so owned wherever the tide is flowing, and with whatever it may be externally associated; but it can never be of God to use the blessing to neutralize the truth and will of Him who gives the blessing.
When Barnabas visited Antioch, and saw the grace of God in " the great number that believed, and turned unto the Lord," "he was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord." And when Paul addresses the elders of Ephesus, at the close of his ministry, referring to the evils and sorrows that crowded around the scene of his labors, seeking to gain an entrance in order to corrupt and destroy, he says emphatically, " Therefore watch, and remember that, by the space of three years I, ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears."
" The time is short." " And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light." (Rom. 13:11, 1211And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. 12The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:11‑12).)
For some very valuable and timely observations on the revival, (in Ireland especially,) see "A Few Words on the Present Revival."-ED.