Unity in Diversity, Pt. 2 – 1 Corinthians 12:15-31
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Unity without diversity produces uniformity.
And complete uniformity produces death in the church.
God does not desire for His people to be "clones."
All of life is a balance between unity and diversity.
Many churches and ministries have "died" because there was not enough diversity to keep unity from turning into uniformity.
God loves variety, just witness His creation!
But, if diversity overcomes unity, then anarchy develops.
God desires "balance" in His church, and that balance comes from maturity.
In this passage, the Apostle Paul will use the human body as an illustration of the Church body and its proper function as God desires.
Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
(1 Cor. 12:14)
I. The body needs all its different members and their functions to live, grow and serve.
True for the human body as well as the Church body.
Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?
(1 Cor. 12:15-17)
The Holy Spirit does not give the same gift to every person.
Different gifts are given to different members by God's Spirit so the Church body can function as He desires.
But in fact, God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
(1 Cor. 12:18-20)
"...God has placed the parts..."
"...just as He wanted them..."
No member of the Church body should compare and be envious of any other member and the gift he has been given.
Each member, and each gift, are equally important in God's eyes and to His plan.
There is a tendency to "magnify" the more visual or sensational gifts.
Placing those who have them on a pedestal and setting them up for a long fall.
Diversity (differing gifts and members) is not a picture of superiority or inferiority.
Did the Sovereign Lord make a mistake when He gave us our gifts?
II. Church members and the Church grow in unity as we learn to depend on each other.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,
(1 Cor. 12:21-22)
We need each other and the Lord has planned to use us all together to grow His Church, and complete the work of the Church.
No member can be independent and stand alone:
"No man is an island."
It is for this reason we assemble to fellowship (Heb. 10:24-25). "I don't need church to worship God" is false, only in church can we grow as He planned (Acts 2:42).
...and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,
(1 Cor. 12:23-24)
Paul may be referring to the "less honorable" parts that we “treat with special honor" as parts of the "body" that we "clothe" more attractively to build up or enhance.
"...but God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it."
* The invisible parts of the body, i.e.; the brain, the heart, etc. invisible but indispensable!
* The invisible members in the Church that do the work of the “Levite.”
...so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
(1 Cor. 12:25-26)
God's priority is always unity in His Church and not division:
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.
(1 Cor. 1:10)
"...if one part suffers every part suffers..."
* In the physical body, example: When your back is out, every movement hurts, so also the Church body.
"...if one part is honored, every part rejoices..."
* Jealousy and envy should have no part in the Church body.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Sometimes the rejoicing part comes easily. Sometimes, it is so difficult it hurts.
Sometimes other's joy causes us pain.
But God wants us to rejoice with them!
If one is honored, we all receive honor, if one suffers, we all suffer.
III. Diversity of members fulfills the will of God in the body.
"...you are the body of Christ..."
...so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Rms. 12:5)
"...each one is a part..."
...for we are members of His body.
It is God who is the "giver of all good gifts," and He assigns us to Church offices.
Not every congregation in the New Testament, or today, possesses all the gifts. Corinth was especially gifted (1 Cor. 1:4-7, 2 Cor. 8:7) and still had huge problems because they did not use their gifts properly.
However, God gives each congregation the gifts it needs, when needed.
"...God has placed in the Church..."
* God is sovereign and calls all He wants in the Church.
“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
"...first of all the Apostles..."
* Christ is "the Rock," the "Chief Cornerstone" and "the apostles and prophets" are the foundation of His household. (Eph. 2:20-21, 3:5)
"...second prophets, third teachers..."
* Such as Barnabas and Saul at Antioch where we were first called "Christians" (Acts 11:26, 13:1).
* Throughout the Gospels, miracles and healings attested to the truth and glory of the Gospel, and the power of Christ's name (Acts 2:22, 3:6-7, 16).
* As God did with Moses and the seventy elders (Num. 11:17).
* "Administration" (NKJV)
"...varieties of tongues..."
* As at Pentecost (Acts 2:4-6).
In this passage, Paul shows that there are priorities of gifts, according to God's will and the needs of His Church body. And some gifts are, therefore, more significant.
This does not contradict the fact that each gift is important as is each believer.
Even in the human body some parts are needed for life to continue and some are not as necessary. The heart vs. the hand, for example.
The apostles and prophets were given first to the Church because their ministry was foundational (Eph. 2:20).
Teachers were then, and now, needed to help establish believers in the Church.
Then the other gifts were needed to help and build the Church.
Here Paul uses rhetorical oratory. The answer to each question would have been obviously "NO" to His readers.
"Now eagerly desire the greater gifts."
* Not for our glory, but for God's.
* The "greater gifts" are those that will build up the Church body and the kingdom of heaven.
Some spiritual gifts are of "greater" significance than others. It is good for the believer to desire these gifts.
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.
(1 Cor. 14:1)
In Paul's mind, "prophecy," speaking God's word either directly from God, as was Paul's case (Gal. 1:11-12),
God's words from His written word, as is the case today.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
(2 Tim. 3:16)
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about Me,...
Unity and diversity must be balanced by maturity.
Maturity only comes from love for God and others (Matt. 22:36-40).
It is not enough to have the gift of the Spirit and the gifts from the Spirit.
We also need the "grace" of the Spirit as we use our gifts to serve Him and each other.
The next chapter will explain that love and grace.