Theme: One Body, Many Gifts
This week’s lessons remind us of the need to show unity in the gospel with other believers, including those who are different from us.
Scripture: Mark 9:33-40
There is only one way we will ever defeat this tendency to an improper narrowness in our view of Christian work, and that is to recover a vision of the greatness of the church as Christ’s body. We need to recover the truth Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God who works all of them in all men” (1 Cor. 12:4-6). According to this and other passages, the church contains a variety of gifts, styles, causes, and methods of ministry.
1. There is a variety of gifts. The diversity in the church which the Bible talks about most concerns gifts, that is, the capacity for service given to every true Christian for the benefit of the whole body. These are listed in five passages of the New Testament: Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10; 12:28–30; Ephesians 4:11, and 1 Peter 4:11. But the specific gifts mentioned vary in each passage, suggesting that the lists are not meant to be comprehensive but suggestive of the kind of capacities for service God gives the church. The listing of these gifts should encourage a measure of tolerance in Christian people, for it is evident that they are quite different, that all (and perhaps others) are needed, and that none of us has more than a few gifts at best. We are impoverished if we do not recognize the work of God in others who are exercising these abilities.
2. There is a variety of styles of service. It is not just in the gifts that we see variety. We also see it in the style with which these gifts are exercised. In this area the disciples themselves are an example. Each of these men (with the exception of Judas) was given the gift of apostleship, but each was different from others in his exercise of the gift. Peter was an effective, dynamic spokesman, who preached on Pentecost and many occasions thereafter. John was much more subdued. He traveled to Asia Minor where he died years later, being revered as a gentle and wise old man. Paul, who was called by Christ to join the rank of apostles later, was an aggressive evangelist. Paul would not always have been easy to live with, and we know that on one occasion at least he had a falling-out with Barnabas, another apostle.
Variety of style frequently divides Christians today. But it does not need to. I do not mean that we will necessarily feel most at home with another worker’s style. To imply that would be to deny the legitimacy of our own style. But I do mean that we should respect the other’s approach to service. We should not use words like “superficial,” “overly emotional,” “cold,” “shallow,” “dry,” or “introverted” to describe them.
3. There is a variety of causes. Many valid causes compete for a Christian’s loyalty, but valid as they each may be, no one Christian can be actively involved in all of them. The fight against abortion on demand cannot be every Christian’s cause. The fight for equal access in the public schools cannot command all of every Christian’s time. Neither can the inerrancy cause or the battle to renew the mainline denominations or any one of a large number of other things. If this is so, we must not be critical of those who are involved in Christ’s work but who are just not involved in the particular cause that concerns us. Above all, we must not expect them to stop what they are doing and come over to our particular movement.
How can we overcome our tendency to have a narrow view of Christian work? biblical passages speak to this?
What are the first three kinds of variety in the church? Give some examples of each?
Reflection: What problems can occur when such variety in the church is criticized?
Key Point: There is only one way we will ever defeat this tendency to an improper narrowness in our view of Christian work, and that is to recover a vision of the greatness of the church as Christ’s body.