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Called to the Common Good

(1 Corinthians 12:1-13)

Lesson 8 -- first quarter 2006
July 23, 2006

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2006

God's Purpose for Gifts

Evangelism and nurture are the two basic ministries of the church. (I wonder what kind of grade we would get if we scored all our church -- and personal -- activities by these criteria.)

How do evangelism and nurture fit into a lesson on spiritual gifts? We need such gifts to fulfill these callings. God gave gifts to the church so that we might be equipped to evangelize the world and edify His people wherever they may be! And He gave us different gifts so that we might get the job done well by working together at it.

Alas, because of our own human weaknesses and outright sins, God's gifts to the church can be (and often are) misused or misapplied. At times we even end up using these gifts for division instead for working together.

Imagine that! What God has given for blessing, equipping, and unifying could actually become a curse, a hindrance, and a source of division. Like this, "I have no need of you" and this, "Since I am not..., I am not of the body." This superiority and this inferiority both equally reveal an independent spirit.

An independent spirit pulls away from the whole as well as from individual elements of that whole. The sense of superiority draws away toward independence because it esteems itself as self-sufficient and self-contained. The perception of inferiority, on the other hand, chooses independence by being unwilling to contribute even the little (it thinks) it has been given.

Take the area of teaching as just one example. The "inferior" complains, "Since I can't teach like she does, I just won't help out" (see verses 15 and 16). The "superior" exults, "Since he doesn't teach like I do, I don't need to listen to him" (see verse 21). Both are wrong. Both grieve the Head. Both defy the Giver. Surely we can see that in comparing ourselves among ourselves, we get a distorted image of ourselves. So let's look into the Word for an accurate view of ourselves.

We need to remember that "God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him." We must not forget that it is God Himself that has "tempered the body together." And He did it so the whole body might be "fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part" (Ephesians 4:16).

The devil would like to use our spiritual gifts to turn us against and away from each other. God wants our gifts to unite us and to enhance in us that sense of dependence on and appreciation for one another.

Let's ask God to teach us and enable us to use His gifts to us as He wishes. Then, and not until then, will we begin the experience successes in fulfilling God's purposes for gifts: evangelism and nurture.

Gifts: Uniting or Dividing

In common socialist theory, the whole exists to benefit the individual. In practice, socialism sacrifices the individual for the good of the whole. Socialism eventually creates an environment intolerant of uniquely personal points of view, thus replacing individuality with uniform conformity. Is Christian unity any different than all this?

The unity of Christ does supersede the individual, but it does so without destroying his individuality. The good of the whole is wrapped up in the good of the individual, and the good of the individual is wrapped up in the good of the whole. The whole serves each individual member and each individual member serves the whole. And within that whole, individual members serve each other. Not only that, the whole as well as each individual serve the Head, which is Christ. And greatest thought of all...the Head serves each individual and well as the whole Body, which is the Church.

Did you catch the key concept in that paragraph? SERVICE! Until that holy ambition saturates us each one, Christian unity will elude us. Of course other unity factors exist but this is not the forum to cover them all. Suffice it to simply refer to four more in passing -- love, peace, commitment, the Holy Spirit.

The unity of the Church thrives on diversity. Every member makes his unique contribution to the well-being and proper functioning of the body. Each member profits from the different viewpoints of other members. Without this diversity in function and viewpoint, wise counsel would be impossible to come by. Diversity under the Head's total control enables the Body to function in complete balance. By the way, do you suppose a body could even be a body were it not diversified? No, both the Bible (1 Corinthians 12:14,17-19) and logic make it clear that if all were one member there would be no body -- only an organ by itself.

But diversity produces tension! Suppose I eat an onion sandwich then play a harmonica. Then you come along and pick up what your eyes call a harmonica. One sniff gives your brain an opposing point of view! Now then, will your eyes and nose be at odds? Of course not! They are merely filling their function in your body. Thus in the Church. Tension in viewpoints must exist if the Body of Christ is to function in a balanced, maturing fashion. But interpersonal tension is divisive and deadly. Only when we appreciate ourselves as members of and contributors to the same body can we overcome the interpersonal tensions. So don't get upset at someone if they have a viewpoint different from yours. Appreciate the balance and rightness it can bring to your own ideas.

Now please do not mistake this as a blank check for everyone doing what is right in his own eyes. See, another element of Christian unity is mutual submission. After everyone has contributed his point of view and the Body has formulated a decision, everyone must submit to the decision of the whole. But what if the majority is wrong?

That brings us to a closing element of Christian unity -- common obedience to the Word of God. Any unity in any church that violates this element is not Christian unity.

Would you pay the price to maintain or restore this kind of unity in your congregation? Is it really that important? What did Jesus say? "That they all may be one...that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (John 17:21; see verse 23 also).

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