What was Paul's gift in Romans 1:11?

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Daniel Wee
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What was Paul's gift in Romans 1:11?

Post by Daniel Wee » Fri 04 May 04 2012 8:05 pm

Having looked at Rom 11:26 and how "karismata" does not always refer to the charismatic gifts, we want to look at another interesting verse where "karisma" is mentioned. Rom 1:11 is quite a well-known verse and is often used as the basis for teaching that spiritual/charismatic gifts can be "imparted". The question is whether this is what Paul was talking about.

Let's start with some background - of all the letters that Paul wrote, the epistle to the Romans stands out as the only Pauline epistle addressed to a church that Paul did not establish. For this reason, it comes with a slightly longer introduction, in which we find Rom 1:11 - which is part of that introduction. In this verse, Paul states the following:-

1. Paul wanted to meet the Romans
2. in order to "impart" some spiritual gift (singular)
3. so that they may be "established"

The three words of particular interest to us for understanding this verse are "impart", "karisma" (gift) and "established". On the surface, this verse seems to imply that spiritual gifts can be "imparted" by a person - for example, if I have a gift of prophecy, that I could somehow give some of that gift to you. This seems to be how some, though not all, understand this passage. We must therefore ask what this "spiritual gift" is that Paul is talking about here.

The first clue we get is that the gift is singular and not plural. That alone seems to suggest that Paul does not have the plethora of spiritual giftings in mind, but rather a specific gift. The word translated "impart" also means to "share". We further see that the effect of this gift when shared or imparted to the Romans was that it might "establish" them. This word "established" (Greek: "sterichthenai") means to "support, make firm, strengthen" (cf. Brown Driver Briggs lexicon). Okay, so far here's what we have in Paul's introductory salutation:-

1. Paul wanted to meet the Romans
2. in order to share a spiritual gift to them
3. so that they may be strengthened and made firm

Now we must ask - what gift is it that Paul was talking about? What will fit into the context and make perfect sense? Typically at this point, you'd look into the immediate context of Romans 1 but being that it is salutatory, you won't get a whole lot more obvious clues to the identity of that gift there other than the fact that Paul launches into talking about the "gospel of Christ" in Rom 1:15,16. Can this spiritual gift really refer to the gospel of Christ? Do we have more corroborating evidence for this reading?

Well, as it turns out we do. For that, though, we need to look at the closing remarks of Romans, starting from Rom 15:29 - there Paul says that he will go to Rome to see them "in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ." While not completely conclusive in itself, this is adding to the consistency of Paul's message here. Paul then ends of the epistle in Rom 16:25 saying that God is able to "establish" them "according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ."

So we know that Paul, throughout the book of Romans, had this idea of bringing the "gospel of Christ" to the church in Rome, and his hope is that in so doing - the church may be strengthened or made firm, established, in that gospel. He says this in his introductory remarks, and repeats it in the closing remarks. Given these compelling evidences, it is quite safe to conclude that the "spiritual gift" that Paul had in mind in Rom 1:11 is no other than the "gospel of Christ" (singular), that great power of God to establish us, and not charismatic gifts as some may think.

Further to this - "impart" would be nothing more than to "share", as opposed to some kind of spiritual or metaphysical transferrence of some ability. That would be completely out of context given what Paul is saying about the gospel of Christ. Finally, is this a credible reading? I think so - as we read through Rom 1:15,16 and throughout the book where Paul directly refers to this gospel at least 13 times in 16 chapters.

We learn today that interpretation of texts cannot simply be lexical (based on word meanings) and that contexts can stretch throughout entire books.
Daniel Wee
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Re: What was Paul's gift in Romans 1:11?

Post by Daniel Wee » Fri 04 May 04 2012 8:07 pm

Several things to note here - firstly the Roman church were already Christians. The gospel is more than just about believing in Christ and this isn't the case of preaching to the unconverted so the issue of whether one receives the HS when one "receives" Christ isn't really in this picture.

Secondly I think that the notion of "receiving" Christ is somewhat peculiar - the bible doesn't really have such a sense as we have it today. People either believed that Christ was Lord and King, or they didn't. If they did, they either submitted their lives accordingly, or they tried to kill Jesus, usually. To submit one's life was, among other things, to live according to the commandments of the Lord. When someone does these, God promised that He would be present with them in the form of the Holy Spirit. Whether or not the so-called charismatic gifts accompany this is a separate issue outside of this discussion.

Thirdly, your question assumes that spiritual gifts can be imparted. One of the point of this whole passage is to show that Rom 1:11 cannot be used to support such a doctrine. If there is such a thing as a personal impartation of spiritual gifts, you'd have to substantiate it some other way. So before even trying to answer the question of whether sharing of the gospel is the same or different from the impartation of spiritual gifts, I think you'll need to:-

1. explain what you mean by "impartation of spiritual gifts"
2. see from the bible if such a thing even exists
Daniel Wee
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Re: What was Paul's gift in Romans 1:11?

Post by Daniel Wee » Fri 04 May 04 2012 8:07 pm

I think that the idea of a prophet imparting the gift of prophecy (as an example) is tenuous at best, from the stand point of biblical teaching. Yes, the gifts come by the laying on of hands but it is God who gives the gift, not us. This is what we find in 2Tim 1:6 and elsewhere - men of God lay hands and God gives the gifts. We are told, for example, in James 1:17 that every good and perfect gift comes from God.

You also mentioned 1Cor 12 which says in vs.11 that the Spirit is the one who distributes these gifts "to each individually as He wills." meaning not as we will. Likewise Heb 2:4 that it is God who gives gifts, according to His own will. Implicit in there is the idea that we don't thinking that we now have something that we can "impart" to others as such. We certainly can lay hands (and there are biblical teachings on just how we should go about that as well) and pray that God will give His gifts, just as Paul did for Timothy.

At the same time - Paul simply means the gospel of Christ and NOT merely salvation. Salvation isn't the whole gospel (I'll make some other post on this at another time.)

You ask a good question - how should we approach teachings that float around? For one, go back to the bible, and do what the Berean Christians did (see Acts 17:11.) We are just scratching the surface but truth be told, people are butchering the bible out there and theres a lot of personal opinion being passed off as biblical teaching. The only reason people are getting away with it is because Christians themselves are so biblically illiterate.
Daniel Wee
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Re: What was Paul's gift in Romans 1:11?

Post by Daniel Wee » Fri 04 May 04 2012 8:07 pm

In case I wasn't clear - we don't impart any charismatic gifts - they're God given. We can however impart the gospel. We can lay hands and pray for God to give gifts according to His will though, but we certainly can't take a gift that we have (say "faith") and purport to give some of that to another person.
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