Understanding of Self

Lesson 1998
Tags: Christian service; Ministry; Church; Spiritual gifts; Personality; Self-understanding; Romans 16:1-15, 21-23; 1 Corinthians 12:12-20
Excerpted from Serving God: A Plan for Success

Biblical Texts

Romans 16.1-15, 21-23

1     I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:

2     That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.

3     Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus:

4     Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.

5     Likewise [greet] the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ.

6     Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us.

7     Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

8     Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord.

9     Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved.

10   Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus’ [household].

11   Salute Herodion my kinsman. Greet them that be of the [household] o f Narcissus, which are in the Lord.

12   Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord.

13   Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.

14   Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them.

15   Salute Philologus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them.

21   Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you.

22   I Tertius, who wrote [this] epistle, salute you in the Lord.

23   Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you. Erastus the chamberlain of the city saluteth you, and Quartus a brother.

1 Corinthians 12.12-20

4     Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

5     And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.

6     And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

7     But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

12   For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also [is] Christ.

13   For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether [we be] Jews or Gentiles, whether [we be] bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

14   For the body is not one member, but many.

15   If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

16   And if the ear shall say. Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

17   If the whole body [were] an eye, where [were] the hearing? If the whole [were] hearing, where [were] the smelling?

18   But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

19   And if they were all one member, where [were] the body?

20   But now [are they] many members, yet but one body.


  • In the final chapter of Romans, Paul named 35 specific Christian brothers and sisters by name. Some of them were former co-laborers who had moved to Rome. Others were associates in Corinth who sent greetings to the Roman church. Paul referred to specific ways that some of them had rendered service to God (e.g., 16.4, 6, 7). Perhaps when Paul went to the trouble of naming so many people he had in mind the fact that God used people with a variety of personalities, talents, and gifts. It is certain that the 35 people named—and the many more referred to generically—exhibited a broad variety of spiritual and natural traits. Each one was equipped somewhat uniquely to serve God.

Note: The following people were named in Romans 16: Phebe (1), Priscilla (3), Aquila (3), Epaenetus (5), Mary (6), Andronicus (7), Junia (7), Amplias (8), Urbane (9), Stachys (9), Apelles (10), Aristobulus (10), Herodion (11), Narcissus (11), Tryphena (12), Tryphosa (12), Persis (12), Rufus (13), Asyncritus (14), Phlegon (14), Hermas (14), Patrobas (14), Hermes (14), Philologus (15), Julia (15), Nereus (15), Olympas (15), Timotheus (21), Lucius (21), Jason (21), Sosipater (21), Tertius (22), Gaius (23), Erastus (23), and Quartus (23).

  • One of the areas where Christians differ in their ability to serve God is in the area of spiritual gifts. This reality is emphasized in several ways in 1 Corinthians 12. First, it is explicitly stated that God endows believers with a variety of gifts, ministries, and workings (12.4-6). The terms “diversities” (12.4, 6) and “differences” (12.5) actually translate the same Greek term, diairesis, which denotes a distinction, difference, or division, especially one arising from a different distribution to different persons. The emphasis is on the fact that spiritual differences are a benefit to the church (12.7). Second, the analogy of the human body makes clear that the church’s diversity is the key to its spiritual health (12.12-27, esp. vv 15-17). Here, the message is that God is sovereign in his distribution of gifts (12.18).


  • God can and does use different people in his service. In fact, it is his design for such to be the case. There is no race or class of people that is any less capable of serving him than any other group. There is hardly a talent or skill that cannot be useful in God’s service when properly surrendered to him. Of course, spiritual gifts are by nature useful for serving God. To be a faithful servant of God one does not have to be a Paul, a Peter, or a Philip. Christian service is possible for Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Tertius, as well as for Andronicus, Apelles, and Asyncritus, none of whom are mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament.
  • Every believer is gifted at the time of salvation with the ability to perform some special spiritual activity in the service of the Lord. God has distributed these gifts according to his own wisdom and power. We may not think that we have much to offer the Lord or his church, but such is not the case. Every Christian has something to give, and without the exercise of that gift the local church will be less than God intends for it to be.
  • It is essential for each Christian to possess self-understanding. God wants us to know what talents, skills, and gifts he has given us to be used for his glory. Self-understanding is the final condition of spiritual service.
  • One author comments on his experience in serving God: “Several years ago I began to explore the relationship of our personal styles (personality/temperament) to our spiritual gifts. . . . I discovered that it’s the combination of our spiritual gifts, God-given passion, and personal style—what I call our servant profile . . .—that indicates the best way to be fruitful and fulfilled in a place of ministry” (Bugbee 62).


  • Do you know what your spiritual gift(s) are?
  • Do you understand yourself—your natural talents, acquired skills, personality strengths and weaknesses? The more you know about yourself, the more likely it is that you will find a niche of service that fits you.