All too often believers rob themselves of the greater gifts of God in order to settle for the lesser. Paul dealt with this issue much with the Corinthians. Even today, we find many miss out on glorious truths when they misread the spiritual gift of Romans 1:11 to be the miraculous signs of Mark 16.
When we read Romans 1:11 there are two obvious points that we should consider:
1. Paul ‘longs to impart a spiritual gift’.
2. The function of the gift is to the establishment of the believers.
If we were left with simply the first attribution of the gift being spiritual then we could not make a judgment one way or another about what sort of gift he had in mind. However, the function of the gift helps us to determine the identity of the gift.
The gift is spiritual even like the spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 of tongues, healings, miracles, and other powers, but the function distinguishes it as separate from these sign gifts. For the function of these miraculous gifts were initially to be a be a sign to the unbeliever:
“And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” – (Mark 16:17,18)
These miraculous powers in Mark 16 were signs of a believer for the purpose of helping the remnant of Israel suffer through the impending tribulation.
The gifts working amidst the Gentile Corinthians were for another purpose though with the same function; they were to be a sign to the Jew of the apostolic authority of Paul having received a new revelation, some hidden wisdom.
“Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.” – (2 Corinthians 12:12;see also Romans 15:18-20, 1 Corinthians 9:2)
Knowing that these powers would someday ‘cease’ and ‘fail’, Paul exhorted the Corinthians that they desire the greater gifts that would lead to greater benefits, the benefits of edification (1 Cor 13:8). Paul says that he would ‘rather that ye may prophesy’ for he that ‘prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification’ (1 Cor 14:1-5).
Now, we know prophesy to be simply the revelation of God’s word to man. So we are getting a little closer to our answer when we realize why Paul wants to impart unto them this spiritual gift to the ‘end that ye may be established’.
So when we are looking for a spiritual gift that ends in establishment, we are looking for that gift which edifies, teaches, and brings them to some knowledge. Paul continues to explain in verse 12 what it means to be established:
“That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.” (Romans 1:12)
Knowing that faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17), we can then understand that the establishment must mean the hearing and understanding of sound doctrine. Paul exhorts the Colossians to ‘be stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught’ (Col 2:7). Again, he instructs Timothy to ‘commit thou to faithful men’ the ‘things that thou hast heard of me’ (2 Timothy 2:2).
Once more in the same book, after pages of instruction, doctrine, and reproof Paul says,
“Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began…“ (Romans 16:25).
As this establishment involves the preaching of a body of information, we can know that Paul is undoubtedly considering the same gifts that he prays the Ephesians may receive. That is, the knowledge and wisdom of Jesus Christ:
“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened…” – (Ephesians 1:17)
It was during this crucial time in Paul’s ministry that he states in chapter 4 that Jesus Christ ‘gave gifts to men’ which are identified as apostles, evangelists, pastors and teachers. The function of these gifts was for the ‘perfecting of the saints’ and the ‘edifying of the body of Christ’, until we become established and united in doctrine in that ‘perfect man’ (Ephesians 4:8-14).
So then we finally arrive at the truth in Ephesians where we find the gifts that hold the function declared in Romans 1:11.
In this dispensation, as we have access to the complete revelation of God, we can know that there is no greater gift from God than to know the ‘glory of this mystery among the Gentiles’ (Colossians 1:27). That is, to know the establishing power of Him according to the revelation of the mystery!
It was this spiritual gift that Paul no doubt wanted to impart to his Roman brothers and sisters for their edification and mutual faith.