Two gifts: that of helps and that of administrations, listed with others in 1 Corinthians 12:28 have two features in common: they are the only ones not repeated in verses 29 and 30, preceded by the question "are all?", and they are the only ones in the list, with the exception of teachers, which survive today.
The word helps is the translation of the Greek antilêmpseis from antilambanomai, "to lay hold of" and only once appears in the New Testament. Traditionally it has been understood to refer to the work of the deacons, and to help rendered to the poor and the sick. There is, however, no biblical basis for such a limitation, and a function within a church does not always correspond to a spiritual gift.
In the Old Testament we often find the word help and others derived from it, nearly always as something coming from God, as we see in the following examples:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1).
Give us help from trouble, for the help of man is useless. (Psalms 60:11 and 108.12).
Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 124:8).
To help is evidently a characteristic of God, incomparably superior to the capacity of any human being in assisting his fellow men.
God establishes helps in the church: they are people specially gifted to lay hold of that which is at risk of collapsing. Driven by the power of God they act in support of other members and of the activities of the church, to prevent them from getting discouraged and their efforts from dissipating. Their field of action is vast, but requires certain qualities:
Full awareness of their function. Who helps does not compete to take the place of the person he is assisting, but his purpose is to sustain him or to put him on his feet again so that he may continue to carry on with his work. God does not do the work of His servants for them.
Humility. This should be a virtue of every believer but especially of those who help. He is a servant (the Greek deacon) of other brethren, who may be at the front of some particular work. He should not expect his name or his work to be "glorified", because it generally is in the background and hardly shows.
Dependence on and obedience to the will of God. For God to be able to use him in this noble role it is essential that this servant be in perfect fellowship with Him: learning and obeying His Word, keeping his hands and heart clean, and whenever possible having peace and communion with his brethren in the faith.
Are we all able to help others? It is significant that this gift was not mentioned among others which were preceded by "are all" demanding "no" as an answer, but was left out together with that of administrations. This tells me that all of us have the potential to exercise this gift, provided we acquire the above qualities which, indeed, should be of every believer.
If this is so, why don’t we practise it? The apostle Paul exhorted Timothy not neglect the gift of God that was in him but to "stir it up" (1 Tim. 4.14, 2 Tim. 1.6). If we neglect the gift which is in us, it will weaken and we shall lose opportunities to serve the church and to receive our reward at the judgement seat of Christ.
Within our local church there are always opportunities to support work done by others who are at its forefront, and who often tire themselves out not wishing to "trouble" other brethren to help them carry their burden. They need help, but won’t ask. Are we always attentive to such opportunities, or do we first wait to be asked and, even so, only agree if some compensation or some position of honour is offered to us? This is an attitude of the "world" and is certainly not spiritual.
In a similar situation, in the Lord’s field we find those who, like the apostle Paul go out to spread the seed and others, like Apollos, who go to water, in order that God may give the growth. They are at the forefront of their work. But all need help from time to time: in sickness, at times of great pressure, they need someone who is available and may go to their place of work to lay hold of it. It could be even to allow them to have an opportunity to return to their families and renew their relationship with their church of origin, for a time.
We may say: God will provide, and I am also sure of this. The provision of God comes in the shape of those who God establishes for this purpose, His servants who are called and are ready for the work of help. Are we attentive to the call of God, to avail ourselves of the opportunities?
Among the letters which come to us we sometimes find the call of one or other worker for someone to come and help him. We are very pleased when we know that the request was attended to but we have a feeling that much more could be done in this part of the work.
No doubt there are brethren engaged most of their time with secular work but who would like to be of service to the Lord as helps during their holidays, for example, in other places. On our part, we could be useful by providing counselling and the means of communication so that this service can be provided where it appears to be most necessary within our knowledge, and most appropriate for these brethren.
We believe that we shall be acting in accordance with the will of the Lord in doing this, and we ask the brethren to pray that He may show us the best way to follow, and we ask those who are moved with a desire to make use of this opportunity of service to make contact with us so that we may co-ordinate our efforts in the best possible way.
As we conclude, let us remember that brethren who made use of this gift were honourably remembered by the apostle Paul in his epistles: Phoebe, Priscilla and Aquila, Urbanus, the mother of Rufus, Timothy, Tertius (Romans 16.1-22), Epaphroditus (Philippians 2.30) among many others.