UNITY IN DIVERSITY
GOD HAS A JOB FOR EACH OF YOU TO DO
1. Last week we discovered our high calling as Christians. We are the mirror that reflects God to the world. We are walking billboards that invite people to come to the Savior. We discovered Christians are responsible. We are responsible to get along with other believers. We are to maintain the unity that Christ has established. We discovered 3 virtues necessary to do that: humility, gentleness, and patience. We discovered the 7 basis of our unity as found in v 4-6.
2. Our text today continues that theme of unity. It describes unity in diversity. We all share the same faith. We all have the same spiritual heritage but we have different spiritual service.
3. We know these different ministries have caused deep division in our churches and denominations. Churches have split over them. Denominations have expelled churches over them. I remember in the mid 70s when I was in seminary several associations in Tx withdrew fellowship from churches over the tongues issue. Flip thru the religious channels on TV and you’ll see the diversity. We often think since I’m doing this job and it is so much fun then everyone should be doing it. If not, then unity is strained. Unity is strained when someone comes along with a different idea. We think the way we’re doing it is the only way and when we don’t always see change as a better idea.. Let’s consider our passage tonight so we can understand God’s wisdom of unity in diversity. I have subtitled this message as God has a job for each of you to do. Let’s look at 4 points: The Giver, The Gifted, The Gifts, and The Goal.
I. THE GIVER
1. Who does Paul identify as the Giver? In v 7,8, Christ is the giver. Christ gives the gifts of grace. v 8-10 is some difficult verses to understand. V 8 is a quote from Ps 66:18 but with one big difference. The Ps says the Victor receives gifts from men while Paul says he gives gifts. There’s continued discussion what v 9,10 means ascending and descending to the lowers part of the earth.
2. The scene these verses paint is that of a conqueror returning in triumph. Jesus descended from heaven to earth. He took on sin. He waged the war that culminated in his death on the cross, burial and resurrection. After his resurrection he ascended triumphally into glory where now he sits at the right hand of the Father. He reigns as the Lord of Lords and Kings of Kings.
3. In OT days the victorious general would parade through town with his armies behind him and the enemy in shackles. He would receive gifts from the people for his great victory and protection. Paul says Jesus does it a little differently. He gives us grace gifts of service so we can join him in his continued victory. Jesus passes out what one commentator called “celebration gifts." We use these gifts of service to celebrate Christ’s redemptive mission. We use these gifts to extend his Mission to the uttermost part of the world.
4. I know this overview doesn’t answer either of the hard questions. I don't have the answers. Jesus is the giver of grace gifts.
1. Who is gifted? Every Christian. Christ gives gifts to each one. Paul’s discussion of spiritual gifts in Rom 12 and 1 Cor 12-14 makes this abundantly clear. At least one spiritual gift comes with the call to be Christian. No one is excluded. No Christian has to sit in the back of the bus, on the sideline or up in the stands. God has a front row seat of service designed for each of us. It is true no one has all the gifts. It is also true that no Christian is without one. Every Member is a minister. Every Christian has a spiritual service to do. God has equipped and empowered each of us for spiritual ministry.
3. I’m going to hit the high points tonight. In Mar, I’m going to speak on ministry. On Sunday evening Jim Perry and I will expand this subject of spiritual gifts. We’ll study them in detail and include exploring our gifts through s. g. inventory.
4. Let’s affirm that each Christian here tonight has at least one grace gift. You have a celebration gift that Christ has given you so you can join him in his redemptive ministry. What the basis of receiving whatever gift you have? Is because you’ll just better than anyone else at what you do? Is it because you’ve been a member here longer than anyone? Or you contribute more money than others? No. It is because of Christ’s generosity. Christ in his wisdom gave you that gift. Just as the word grace suggests, you didn’t earn it nor deserve it. God said --look at Gene Griffin. That guy is a spiritual giant. He’s such a wonderful servant. What should we do? I know let’s make him a pastor. He’s earned that important position. Not at all. You and I have gifts just because it is pleased Christ to give it to us.
5. Here’s the point. When we realize what gifts we have, we are faith bound to use them for God’s glory and live in disobedience. Can I tell you there have been many times in my 29+ years of ministry that I’d just as soon as had a different calling and different gifts. There have been many times I’d like to let the phone ring. There’s have been many times I had rather go do something other than prepare sermons or preach or serve. I can’t do that because God has a job for me to do. He’s given me gifts of celebration. He’s given you gifts of celebration. Why the particular gifts? That decision is in the mind of Christ. All of know is I can’t not use them and please King Jesus.
6. Paul introduces us to the diversity of gifts when he says each one is given a gift as Christ has apportioned. Unity in diversity plain in 1 Cor 12:4-6. Different members of the body. Different gifts. All for the same purpose. To help each other and build up the body of Christ.
7. We’ll expand all this more in Mar as we look at the one body-many members concept. Let me say now that each of us is essential to the health of the body and to this church. God doesn’t rank these gifts on the continuum for highly essential to non essential. We often do in our own lives and in others. Those using their gift of ministry in the nursery are just as vital to the body as those who use their gift of teaching in a SS class. Those who use their gifts of mercy in calling shut ins are just as vital as those who use their gift of leadership to rally a congregation around a vision and do it.
8. The key is to recognize your gift. There are no giftless Christians. God has given you a spiritual capacity of service. Discover it. Use it for God’s glory.
III. THE GIFTS
1. In v 11 Paul lists specific gifts. There are other lists in Rom 12, 1 Cor 12. I sense none of the lists are exclusive. When we read this list we usually think of them in terms of office or position. The church can appoint anyone as an evangelists or pastor but if the person is not gifted for these positions the appointment or ordination is valueless.
2. I want to tune in on the pastor -teacher because that is the most applicable to us. This is widely agreed upon as being one function not 2. It is the shepherd -teacher, the care taker-instructor. Just as this is one function, the PT has one task: to equip God’s people. When Paul wrote this book he didn’t put in chapters, verses or common punctuation. Unfortunately some earlier translators, most notably the KJV, put in commas in v 12 that suggested the pt had 3 functions: to perfect or equip the saints, to do the work of ministry, and edify or build up the church. That made everybody else null and void in the church. We’ve battled this clergy-laity thing for too many years. Suffice to say both of us have more than enough to do.
3. I am to be about leading, mentoring, developing, shepherding, teaching. The object is to equip you for the task God has given you for the works of service He had called you to. The word prepare is an interesting word. It means to mend a fishing net or set a broken bone. The application is the PT spiritually sets in order the people of God. It also means to equip. It was used to prepare a ship for a long journey. The captain of the ship was to make sure everything was ready for the long voyage. the PT is to make sure God’s people are ready for the task that God has called them to.
4. This suggests what we’ve said before. Every member is a minister. All of us have jobs to do. All of us are partners in ministry. Each with a different function. Some of us are the big toe, some the tongue, some the eye, some an ear, some the hands. No body is healthy and complete without all of these. So it is in the church.
A. GROWTH AND MATURIY
1. Body of Christ built up. Spiritually. When the body is healthy and the gifted are using their gifts, if the team is working together the body will grow. The members of the body will develop spiritually when we are all using our spiritual gifts. Haven’t you become stronger in the faith because of a card, phone call, visit in the hospital, a lesson in SS or message. Your giftedness makes a difference in other believer’s lives. We edify, build up one another. God gives us gifts of celebration so we can do good for each other. God’s call and giftedness compel us discovery our gift and respond to the needs of others around us. Body of Christ built up. Numerically. We will work together sharing our gifts we will touch lives of unbelievers as well.
2. Maturity. We’ll mature in our understanding of faith. We’ll grow in our knowledge of Christ. We become more mature in our practice.
B. MARKS OF ACHIEVING
1. How do we know when we are achieving these goals? Paul gives us several identifying marks. First, stability. Notice how he states that negatively. We won’t be tossed about like children, forever changing our mind about what we believe. Paul reminds us how cunning the Devil can be. He can tell a lie in such a way it sounds like the truth. He is cunning and crafty. It worked in the garden and been working ever since. that’s way we need to know what we believe and why. When the members of our church can discern the truth and stay the course, we know we’re achieving the goal.
2. We speak the truth in love. That’s a difficult one. It is so much easier to gossip rather than hold us in accountability and encourage growth. One has said truth without love is brutality. Love without truth is hypocrisy.
3. We become more and more like Christ. That really speaks for itself.
4. The last mark is the theme of the whole section –unity. Notice the last verse. As each part does it won special work it helps the other parts grow so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
1. What a challenge we find in this passage. Remember this. God has never asked us to something that he hasn’t equipped us and empowered us to do. He gives us his celebration gifts so we can serve each other, help each other to grow in our understanding and practice of our faith. In doing that we influence the world around us and the result is the body of Christ is built up spiritually and numerically.