Welcome to Throwback Thursday with Dr. Zodhiates. Here is the second installment of this radio sermon on 1 Corinthians 12.
I would like us to look at verses seven and eleven of 1 Corinthians 12.
“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit. But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.”
And my subject is “God’s Dealing with us is on an Individual Basis.”
God treats each part of His creation, and especially each human being in an individual manner. This is the basic lesson that Paul wants to teach in the 12th chapter of 1 Corinthians. All the other lessons follow from this one: that the Trinity, being three persons, act separately, and yet there is unity in all their actions. For in essence and character, they are one. There is unity and variety in the Godhead, and this is true in all things in creation. All human beings, all believers.
When God, in His three Persons, acts variably in the lives of His people, that does not mean that there is a variation in His essence or character. He is the same Spirit, the same Lord, the same Father God. Just as in the activities of parents towards their children, it is the same parent who spanks and kisses, who punishes and rewards, so it is with God in His manifestations towards us: His creatures and children.
Observe the principle of unity and variety in nature. The lower we go in the scale of animal creation, the more we find unity in uniformity. The higher we ascend the scale, the more we find unity in variety.
There are some creatures so elementary that though they have bodies, they barely have any members. But gradually, as creatures ascend the scale, we observe that their members increase in numbers and their functions become more specific. In the lower forms of life, the same member has to do many things. But as the forms ascend higher and higher, each member has more distinction in deed. Thus, the highest creatures are the most complex in organization and possess the greatest variety in members, but all capable of united action. That is a fact in natural history that represents the unity and variety of duties in Christ’s service.
Have you ever given any thought as to why our age is one of specializations? No longer do we have all our medical needs cared for by a general practitioner. We are referred to specialists for any number of ailments. Specialized medicine is a sign of progress in civilization. Man, in a savage state, does the little he has to do for himself.
Before reaching our stage of civilized specialization, Christians found its counterpart detailed in the Bible as far as the corporate life of the church was concerned. As it was and is in Christ’s kingdom, so we have found after thousands of years that to a degree a nation is civilized it is blessed with a multiplicity of organizations. Diversities of gifts and differences of administrations.
And that’s what Paul is basically telling us here, that to the extent that a church becomes a power, it will find it necessary to multiply its agencies. Efficiency in the Christian church is tantamount to providing scope for different talents and different kinds of operations.
God provides a sphere of operation for every member of His church. That’s His ideal. No one ought to think that he has nothing to contribute because his church is blessed with a number of efficient workers. In the hour of his conversion Paul asked, “What will Thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6) Every person upon his or her conversion ought to ask the same question of the Lord and to learn the answer. For the diversities or divisions of gifts in the church are an enrichment of its total ministry.
The Lord gave us two parables that illustrate two principles that govern these actions. To illustrate the principle of uniformity in essence, He gave us the parable of the pounds in Luke 19:12-27. Each person received one pound that is God’s basic endowment to all.
But then there is the second parable found in Matthew 25:14-30, the parable of the talents in which the gifts vary. To one He gave ten talents; to another, five; and to another, one. That is diversity of gifts. The individual is responsible for what he has been given. All have been given something, but the gifts have not all be uniformed.
Even when selecting His disciples, the Lord did not seek uniformity, but diversity. The disciples, they’re all essentially different characters, types of thought and feeling. Each was expected to occupy his own niche. From the outset Christ sought to impress men with the fact that the Christian church should consist of individuals differing from each other. Each having his own characteristic qualities for service.
But in connection with this variety, there is unity. This is an organic unity, not an artificial one. The Christian church is not an organization, but an organism. The same Spirit energizes all. The divisions or diversities of gifts, however, do not confer on the recipients an independent existence. Try cutting your arm off and see how long it will live apart from the body. The church is the body of Christ, and no member should seek to function in it apart from the other members.
The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit thereby. If it were not for the same Spirit giving life to every member, it would be absolutely useless. It would accomplish nothing. The identity of believers in the church is not in the outward form, but in the prompting power. My hand does not look or function like my eye, yet the same life-giving blood courses through both of them to keep them alive and useful. So, in the church, the gifts are different, but the Giver is the same. Thus, through the diversity of gifts there runs vital unity. This is why the human body is cited here as the most expressive figure to convey this truth.
“For as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body. So also, is Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:12)
The tongue and the foot, having nothing discernable in common except the relationship that each hold to the spirit of man. The tongue is the servant of the indwelling spirit, and the foot is the servant to the same spirit. Thus, there is a community of service. The same spirit directs the tongue as that which directs the foot, yet it gives different directions to each. The human body, in the full position and exercise of its faculties is the most perfect illustration of diversity in unity.