Diversity Not Disunity
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
4Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 7But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 8For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
The church at Corinth was a very troubled and divided church. The members divided over different favorite leaders. They permitted sexual immorality to continue without objection. Members sued each other in the law courts. There was disunity over the issue of marriage and divorce. They turned neutral issues into hot moral issue, such as what kind of meat a person could eat and still be a Christian.
What we read in these Scriptures is being repeated before our very eyes today. People are wearing themselves out seeking wealth, pleasure and prestige and always finding their lives empty after all the seeking has ended.
One of the areas of tension among them involved the different spiritual gifts people had. Instead of seeing the difference as needed, they saw them as threatening. Some thought they were superior to others because they had certain gifts that others lacked.
They made some feel inferior and not needed. All members needed to understand that diversity within Christ’s body is divine, delightful and essential. With that understanding, they would lift up one another instead of tearing each other apart verbally.
They would function as partners instead of competitors. They would love one another instead of loathing one another. In our lesson today Paul describes the nature of the body, unity amid diversity and the essential characteristic: love.
Regarding verse 4, (above)
The Christians at Corinth had spotlighted the differences that were present within the church but had not seen that the differences were from the same Divine Source. Of course, there are varieties of gifts, but that variety comes from the same Holy Spirit. That makes each person equal in dignity and worth.
Regarding verse 5, (above)
Not only is there a variety of gifts, but also a variety of administrations, ministries or services that flow from those gifts. Many people in the church have been made to feel inferior because they do not do one of the few ministries that has been placed at the top of the list in importance. If they do not do one of those, then they think that their ministry is to come and watch others do them. How sad to have a church full of spectators, instead of participants.
Which ministry of Jesus was the most important? Was it healing, making friends, answering questions, feeding the hungry, teaching one person, teaching masses of people, going to people’s homes for visits, attending a wedding, raising the dead, washing feet? Which was it?
Later in this chapter Paul makes it clear that every ministry is important, for the body is not one member but many. The foot, the hand, ears, eyes, etc., are all needed. In fact, those members with ministries that seem to be feeble are necessary.
Because there are different ministries as a result of different gifts, there are different kinds of operations (effects, results) that come from the different ministries.
Again, the worth of people is often evaluated by the effect of their ministries that can be measured and seen. Because spectacular public results are regarded as desirable, many people try to be successful in ways that can be noticed. The results in our ministries vary. Some may be just planting seeds; some may be cultivating; some may be watering; some may be reaping the harvest. Which is really the most important?
Paul said in:
1 Corinthians 3:6-7
6I have planted. Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
While one person may minister publicly to thousands, another may devote most of his time to one person. Would you say that Ann Sullivan, who poured her life into one person, Helen Keller, made a mistake?
Was Jesus wasting His time when He took Peter, James and John aside for special discipling experiences instead of speaking to the thousands? Later, Peter, because of Christ’s discipline of Peter, won thousands to Christ.
Every one of us, as believers, has a spiritual gift or gifts because somebody else has a need that our gift can meet. The gifts are not given so the individual who has them may boast, but rather that he may grow spiritually.
We are told to meditate upon these things in:
1 Timothy 4:15
Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.
We need each other. Not one part of our physical bodies exists solely for itself, but to add something to and for the other parts.
1 Corinthians 3:8-10
8Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. 9For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. 10According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
Here is one list of gifts, in verses 8-10, but these are not the only gifts. We find a different list, more gifts in
6Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; 7Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; 8Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. 9Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. 10Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.
1 Peter 4:10-11
10As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
The gifts mentioned in our text were some of those given to different members in the church at Corinth.
In Romans 12:6-8, (above) it shows that these are probably the gifts that were causing problems and division because of how the people were evaluating themselves and others. From what we can read in the two New Testament letters addressed to the Christians at Corinth, there was much among them in the way of ignorance, disorder, pride, confusion and sinful activities that we certainly would not want to imitate.
On the other hand, we are blessed of God to have these letters the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians in an attempt to correct the wrongs there. Paul wanted the Christians to know and understand that even though there were many different kinds of spiritual gifts and many different ways of serving and ministering and doing the work of God, they were not in competition with each other. They were, instead, workers together with God, ministering in various ways.
1 Corinthians 3:9
For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.
Since the gifts of the Spirit are not natural or acquired abilities, but enablings by God’s grace, we should not think of them in terms of what status or power they lend to us. Rather, we should think of the gifts in terms of how we can be yielded to the Holy Spirit, so as to minister to others.
Verse 9, (above) shows that this faith, stated in this verse, is not simply the belief that comes through hearing the word of God. That is the possession of all Christians. It speaks of a supernatural courage by which to answer the adversaries.
Matthew 10:19 (Jesus speaking)
But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.
Luke 21:15 (Jesus speaking)
For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.
1 Corinthians 13:2
And though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
1 Corinthians 13 affirms the superiority of love over all other gifts that may be had or desired.
Why is love most important?
Because love is of God,
because love is the glue
that bonds together the fellowship,
because love is the greatest power in the world.
1 Corinthians 13
1Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2And though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity I am nothing. 3And though I bestow all my good to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 4Charity suffereth long and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7Beareth all things, believeth al things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge it shall vanish away. 9For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three, but the greatest of these is charity.
I Corinthians 14:1-5
11Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. 2For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. 3But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. 4He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. 5I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.
1 Corinthians 14:26-33
26How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. 27If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. 28But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. 29Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. 30If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. 31For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. 32And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 33For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace as in all churches of the saints.
Every activity of worship should be done unto edifying, not for self-glory. Paul laid down some guidelines for speaking in tongues to an assembled congregation. First, he said that no more than two or three should give messages in tongues on any one occasion.
Then he said that those who speak in tongues should address the congregation one at a time, not all at once and that each message in a tongue, addressed to the congregation should be accompanied by an interpretation. If there is no interpretation, the one speaking should speak in a tongue privately to himself and to God.
The Scripture places no limit on speaking with other tongues, as the Holy Spirit works in that person’s life. However, it is necessary, for the edification of others, that there be guidelines for speaking in tongues in public worship.
When the word of God is followed, the work of the Holy Spirit will not be hindered. Paul’s instruction on the manifestation of spiritual gifts is not intended to hinder the use of gifts, but to make them more beneficial to both believers and nonbelievers. We need to remember that the Holy Spirit Himself inspired Paul to share these guidelines.
1 Corinthians 14:33-40
33For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. 34Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. 35And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. 36What? came the word of God out from you? Or came it unto you only? 37If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. 38But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. 39Wherefore, brethren covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. 40Let all things be done decently and in order.
These verses speak of the order that brings glory to God. Confusion means instability, disorder and disturbance. Paul made it clear that God does not bring disorder and confusion into the midst of His body of believers.
God brings peace and stability. This is the characteristic of every church that is truly filled with the Spirit and is under the practicing dominion of the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Author: Nannie Mae Jordan
(Transcribed by Joyce Carter Transcribed and Formatted by Jerry Knight)