Sovereign Gifting

Grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph. 4:7).

- Ephesians 4:7

Unlike other monotheistic religions, Christianity affirms that God is not a monad but a triune being. He is not dependent upon His creation for the manifestation of His relational nature, but each person of the Trinity both loves and receives love because of the eternal relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Diversity exists within the eternal divine unity because three different persons share the same divine essence. Thus, God does not seek a monadic unity within His church but a oneness amid diversity. To be sure, all Christians must affirm one body of doctrine (Eph. 4:5), but the New Testament never envisions the end of cultural distinctives within the body of Christ, as long as these distinctions are not sinful. John the apostle can identify every tribe and tongue within the sum total of the elect (Rev. 7:9–17), implying that ethno-cultural differences will never vanish completely, even though in Jesus their importance is relativized.

Other monotheistic religions, such as Islam, are far different. Because Allah lacks diversity within himself, Islamic culture tends toward a monadic unity, at least in religious matters, and does not share Christianity’s appreciation of diversity. The Qur’an, for instance, is translated into other languages, but Arabic remains the language of worship even for those who do not speak the mother tongue of Islam. This hesitation to embrace and celebrate cultural differences creates a strong impetus toward a monolithic society, as a distinctive Islamic culture is imposed by force on those who fall to Muhammad’s sword. Moreover, only specialized Qur’anic scholars can truly contribute to religious life, and there is little hope for any but these to make a real impact upon the growth of the Muslim community.

Christianity, on the other hand, encourages and celebrates the contributions of all its members to the one church of Jesus Christ. Different graces — different gifts — are apportioned to believers according to Jesus’ sovereign purposes, as Ephesians 4:7 tells us. Later in this chapter, Paul describes some of these gifts and offices more fully, but the point of verse 7 is that, by His perfect will, our Savior bestows talents and abilities upon each of us that we can and must use to build up His body. In our diverse giftings and workings, we truly advance the kingdom of heaven.

Coram Deo

Christ bestows gifts upon His people as He sees fit, guaranteeing that all of us have an important part to play in the advance of His kingdom (1 Cor. 12:1–11). As Christians, then, we must truly appreciate the variety of talents and giftings in the church and never think that one gift is more important than another. There is no reason to be jealous of another’s gifting or to think we are more important than others due to the gifts we possess.

Passages for Further Study

Exodus 36
Psalm 68:1–19
Proverbs 14:30
Hebrews 2:1–4

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