Short Meditations in John 3: 26. The Origin of all gifting
Jn 3:27 To this John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.
John understands his ministry and, to be more precise, he understands where it has come from. He was called by God and anointed by God to be the forerunner of the Messiah – and that’s all. He has done what he was given to do and any ‘success’ that he had had came from the Lord. So when his disciples, or maybe even other Jews starting to stir up competition with Jesus and his ministry, come with questions about his ministry, his basic answer is, I have got what I have from God and do what He gives me to do – and the same is true of the Messiah!
In many ways this is the clearest statement of this principle in the Bible: we do what God calls us to do, and no more. Other people have different ministries and we are not in competition. The apostle Paul wrote in respect of gifts, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Cor 12:27-30). In this he makes clear various important things. First, it is God who appointed these ministries. Second, the ministries are quite clear and distinct. Third, there are only limited numbers of them and not everyone is the same. This sounds very obvious but in practice it is not. Suppose I am called to be a teacher, say. That means I am a teacher and not a prophet and if I have not been given the prophet’s gifting, I should neither hanker after it nor pretend I have it (even if I have the gift of prophecy).
The key to being at peace in serving God, is knowing what He has called you to and what He has gifted you with. This avoids all temptation to envy or jealousy and enables us to be blessed by other people’s ministry and blessed in exercising our own gifting. This may all sound very obvious but I wonder how many square pegs there are in round holes in the church – men or women ‘performing’ tasks that they have not been given by the head of the church, but just because they think it is expected of them or wrong ambition pushed them to it? It is a vital subject in the kingdom of God, knowing the calling and the gifting of God and not going beyond it, recognising that real gifting comes from God alone and is not something we stir up. John the Baptist rested in this knowledge, it was his disciples who were slow to come to understanding of it.