1 Corinthians 12:1-31
Theme: Our role in the body of Christ.
This week’s lessons challenge us to know our spiritual gifts and to use them in the Church.
The first point Paul makes here when talking about gifts is that there is a diversity of gifts in the Church, and that the diversity corresponds to the nature of God, which is the basis of all reality. It is not difficult to illustrate this. All we have to do is look about the world in which we live and the universe in which our world is located. One thing made clear in the study of science is the intricacy found throughout the whole universe.
When I studied chemistry in school, we focused on the elements and the way they were put together. Afterward we thought we knew everything there was to know about neutrons, protons, and electrons. Yet, as this particular discipline has unfolded, the intricacy of the atom has become so complex that nobody today is willing to say that we know all of the particles that make up the basic building blocks of matter. There is more diversity in a grain of salt than you and I are ever going to understand. And yet, it all holds together. People who explore this sort of thing say, “It is interesting, isn’t it, that the same kind of forces and the same kind of laws that govern the movement of these minute particles within the atom are identical with the forces and the laws that control the moving of planets throughout all the vast universe.” As a matter of fact, when the textbooks try to explain what an atom is like, they quite often compare it to the solar system, to the sun and the distances of the planets which are comparable, in relative terms.
Everywhere in the universe you see great diversity and yet simultaneously a magnificent unity. This is because that is what God is like. What we see in reality reflects the character of God. If you and I were setting out to talk about what God is like, we would produce something apart from the revelation of God. Yet, as God speaks to us in the pages of his Word to reveal what he is like, the Scriptures attest from beginning to end that God is one. There is one God and yet, at the same time, God is also three. He is the Father, he is the Son, and he is the Holy Spirit. We cannot explain it. It is the nature of God and it corresponds to what we observe in life, which is both unity and diversity at the same time. That is the basis for what Paul is going to say about spiritual gifts.
One of the problems we have with our own spiritual gifts is our tendency to think that our specific gift is the most important one. We see that tendency with preachers. Something positive happens in their church as a direct result of their personal ministry, so they say, “Every church should be like this.” All across the world, there are frustrated congregations and frustrated preachers because of this tendency. Sometimes the preachers become frustrated with their congregations, but more often the congregations become frustrated with the preachers. This is not what Paul is talking about here in 1 Corinthians 12. Paul is saying that God gives different gifts to different people and that somehow, in the providence of God, those various gifts work together to produce a healthy whole, which is the Church of Jesus Christ.
You can see that principle at work in all sorts of ways. In a Sunday school class you see people functioning in different ways. One has a special gift of logical analysis; he can exegete the text. Somebody else has a gift for application; she explains how the text ought to be applied in a particular situation. Still another has a gift for compassion; he reads the text and it leads him to provide what is necessary to help those who are in need. God brings people with different gifts together and this is what makes small group dynamics so good. You get a wholeness that you just do not get if everyone is off trying to serve God individually. The church would not function if it were not for a wide variety of spiritual gifts. If a church gets into a situation in which one or two people do it all, then you have an unhealthy church. You have a church that is not going to thrive.
Where God is working effectively in a church, you will find the diversity of gifts that Paul is describing to the Corinthians. People have different gifts; different churches have unique ministries; and so the body of Christ is most effective when each does its part. Paul is pointing out that there are many gifts and that they all are necessary.
How does science prove the existence of God?
How does the exercise of spiritual gifts make a church healthy?
Memorize Romans 1:20
How do you see spiritual gifts working together in your church or small-group Bible study? Name specific examples.