We’re going to look this morning and next Lord’s Day at verses 12 thru 31, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. We see here Paul talking about one body, many gifts. This is a very, very important and a very practical word to us, and it’s my prayer that the Spirit of God will use this, not just to be an encouragement to you today or an instruction to you today, but a catalyst to alter your behavior as a believer in relation to Him and to His church in all the years of your life. It’s that important to Scripture – to study.
Now unfortunately, Christianity has become very organized. And as one writer put it, “When Christians get organized, they get very un-Christian.” You hate to admit it, but he’s right. I think this has to be, from any clear study of church history, the time in history when the church has become most like the world’s organization. And maybe it’s because the sophistication of organization today is greater than it’s ever been. But there’s no question about the fact that the church has been turned into an organization. But the church was never designed to be ordered along the lines of the world’s organizational principles. It was never designed to be a management outfit. It was never designed to follow business philosophy. The church was never designed to be a selling agency where you motivate people by Madison Avenue promotion, by gimmicks, or by moneymaking schemes. Unfortunately, it has become that.
I was looking at two church ads this week that sort of illustrated this to me, the amazing gimmicks to which churches will go to fulfill what they, I suppose, assume is their responsibility. One was that you were to attend a certain church, because this Sunday they were featuring the Hanson Gospel Birds. And I thought, “That’s interesting. I’ll read a little about that.” And I read and it said, “These birds eat with a fork, fly backwards, open padlocks, ride airplanes, and swallow small swords.” Hanson’s Gospel Birds. I read another ad advertising a service that no one should miss on Sunday night where a converted alcoholic was going to play gospel music on converted booze bottles to illustrate the transformation in his life. Instead of drinking out of the bottles what was there, he was blowing gospel music back into them. Now you say, that is ridiculous. Of course. But it just illustrates the fact that the church has, somewhere along the line, lost the concept of what it’s supposed to be. It’s not where you go to watch the Gospel Birds. It is not where you go to hear a man play the converted booze bottles. The church was never designed to be a gimmick to attract people.
Further, the church was never intended to be a business for profit-making, but it is. There are churches today that own monies and properties and businesses and corporations, and they’re turning a profit. Recently, at one of our recent elder meetings, some very kind and well-meaning organization wanted to give us a whole bunch of stainless steel. This was tremendous, and it was told to us what this was very valuable, valuable stainless steel. However, it was all built to fit a certain kitchen and we would just have to take it out like that. The question immediately came up, “Will it fit our kitchen?” No. “Can we use it in our kitchen?” Well no. “But it’s very valuable. Well what are we going to do with it?” Well, the idea would be that we would take it, and then we would sell it to somebody else for a profit. And it was interesting, because Wayne Beatty said, “Oh, now we’re in the stainless steel business.” Well of course, it was presented to us in such a way, it was a kind gesture, but our thinking was we are not to be in the stainless steel business. We’re a church. And the church is not a profit-making brokerage for people who want to unload certain things for a charity write-off so that we can make a profit on them. That’s not our business.
Further, the church was never designed to be run by paid professionals who did all the work while everybody else watches. You know, we live in a society like that. We are watchers. We watch. We sit at home and watch the world happen on the tube. And if we leave home, it is to go and watch something. We go and watch people play games. We watch and listen as people sing or make music. We have no involvement, no responsibility, and no commitment, but we watch. And the church has also fallen into that category as well. And if you will look at the church page on Saturday night, you will have difficulty distinguishing it from the movie page. It’s “Who is playing where? Where will we go to watch what this week? Over here they are having a movie. Yes, but in this church it’s a double feature. Over here they have Hanson’s Gospel Birds. Yes, but over here there is a converted man blowing booze bottles.” See? So where do we go?
In other words, the church has been turned into a spectator place. It’s like the local religious production that you go see. Further, I’m convinced that the church was never intended by God to be a community social center where everybody goes because that’s a nice place to go and it is not like a country club, you don’t have to pay. And besides, you can get in on the power struggle, and if you’re lucky, you can become a little tin god, you know. We see that happening, don’t we?
What is the church? Well, I think that man was right when he said when the church gets organized, it gets very un-Christian. The church is an organism, not an organization. This is a perspective I think we at Grace Community Church understand, because we’ve covered it many times. But I want to take you into the twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians verses 12 to 31 in the next two weeks to look at this in the very most intense way that Paul does here. And what he is trying to say here is that the church is an organism, and an organism is something that is living. It is something that is living. It is different than an organization. A corpse is organized, but it isn’t alive. You can look at a corpse and say, “Amazing. Look at it. All the limbs in the right place, the bone structure, flawless, all the organs are in the right spot, connected to the right things.” All there, but not living. It is an organization at that point, but it has ceased to be an organism.
The different, again, if you want another illustration, between an organism and an organization is the difference between you and your car. The dictionary says an organization is a structured system. But an organism is a living system. Your car is structured. It has a frame, it has steel, it has all the little things it needs, and it works to perform a certain function when you carry out things that are commensurate with its structure. But it isn’t a living organism. You don’t call up to your car and say, “Listen, come and get me. I’m stuck down here!” Your car cannot respond as a living thing.
The church is not like a car. The church is not a highly structured organization with all the right parts and pieces and frames and nice comfortable seats, worked on by a bunch of super-trained, tremendous technicians and mechanics, and driven by a hotshot preacher. No. The church is an organism. It is a living, breathing, vital life. And I think this is something that Paul wants to get across with great, great fervency. Every individual in the church is alive, and pulsing through all of us is the life of God, eternal life, aiōnios zōē, God’s life, God’s Spirit. And we are living. As every cell and every member in your body is alive, so everybody in the church is alive. And we are a body, and that’s his point.
Now when the New Testament wants to speak of the church in terms of analogy, it frequently uses analogies of living organisms. For example, the church is called a bride, and that is a living organism. That analogy is alive. The church is further called a vine and branches, Christ being the vine and we being the branches. And again there is life flowing through that organism. The church further is called a flock. We are sheep and He is the Shepherd. And again a sheep is something living, something breathing, something vital. Further, in Ephesians 2 and Romans 8, we have the idea that the church is called a family and we are sons who cry out, “Abba, Father.” And that is something living and organic. And so when God the Holy Spirit wants to show us the church, He shows it to us in organic terms, in terms that will say to us, “Everybody is a living part. Nobody is a spectator.” It isn’t just a structured organization run by professionals. It is a living, breathing, vital organism.
But the best metaphor that’s ever been used to define the church, the one so very unique, the one never appearing in the Old Testament but unique to the church, is that the church is a body. Look at verse 12, and this will draw you into the text. “For as the body is one” – and the end of the verse – “so also is Christ.” Like a human body is Christ’s church; we are an organism. We are not a structured system; we are a living system. We are not just organized; we are alive. The church is a plurality of living cells, all alive, all beating with aiōnios zōē, eternal life, all vital, all necessary. And this is the message that Paul has for the Corinthians, and the reason he has this message, as in all the other cases of his words to them, is because they are not functioning in that way. They are totally chaotic. Their particular manifestation of the body of Christ is definitely crippled; it’s spastic; it’s out of control. They are not portraying the proper image of Christ in the world.
They were carnal. They were immature. They were immoral. They were selfish. They were proud. They were heretical. They were divisive. They fostered parties of opposition. They were enamored with human philosophy. They identified in little cliques under certain spiritual teachers. They tolerated sin. They were suing each other as a rip-off. They had a women’s lib movement. They were gluttonous. They were drunk. They were sexually evil. They allowed pagan worship ritual to be brought into their own worship. They committed orgiastic sins at the love feast. They desecrated the Lord’s Table, and they perverted and twisted the area of spiritual ministries. And as a result of all of that, the body of Christ was distorted and spastic and chaotic, and the image of Christ in the world was lost.
And I guess when Paul gets to chapter 12, it’s as if he says here, “Nowhere in any other area is there any more discord or disunity evident than in this matter of spiritual gifts.” Where the body ought to be functioning in the area of the spiritual gifts, there is just chaos. Why? Because as we’ve already seen, the Corinthians had, for one thing, counterfeited the true gifts. For another thing, Satan had moved in and was doing his thing in the name of the Holy Spirit. For another thing, everybody was seeking the showy gifts, the public gifts, the speaking gifts. And the chaos that resulted was just terrible. People who didn’t have those gifts felt inferior; people who did felt superior. There were people going around grumbling and griping because they couldn’t get certain gifts, and other people going around lording it over the ones who couldn’t get them. And so instead of the body functioning in beautiful harmony, it was chaos. The Corinthians, in their self-seeking, in their selfishness, in their attention-getting, ego-pandering efforts, were seeking the showy gifts.
And here Paul is saying to them this, “Look, you’re a body. And in a body, it isn’t for the hand to say, ‘If I can’t be the eye, I’m leaving,’ or, ‘I’m frustrated,’ or, ‘I’ve been cheated.’” That’s his whole point here. You must be content with the design of God. You must allow God to put the body together the way He did it, accept that with a sense of divine dignity that God has placed in every member, and go about ministering in the area God has given you. And when they began to seek for other gifts, you see, then they wouldn’t minister the ones they had and chaos resulted. And in verse 11, he says, “Look, all these gifts that I’ve just mentioned are given by the same Spirit, who divides them out to every man as He wills.” This is a divine thing; this is a sovereign thing. There isn’t anything to seek for. There isn’t anything to chase after. To seek certain gifts shows discontent. It shows a selfish desire for showy gifts.
There are some people who do not have the gift of teaching. Other people have confirmed they do not have the gift of teaching, and yet they continue to seek the places of teaching. There are people today who believe that you haven’t even arrived, that you haven’t received a certain dimension of spiritual life until you have received the gift of tongues. And so they seek and seek and seek for that, and that is not what God intends. That is precisely the thing that he is countering right here in 1 Corinthians 12. We’ll see it today; we’ll see it even more strongly confirmed next Lord’s Day.
There isn’t anything to seek, beloved. There is nothing to seek. You will find no such injunction or exhortation to seek spiritual gifts, only to accept what God has given in humility and faithfulness and minister it. But the Corinthians wanted the showy; they wanted the self-seeking gifts, the glorifying gifts. And I fear that many folks in the modern charismatic movement have been caught in the same trap. God never intended all of us to have all the same things, that’s the beauty of the body. And Paul here wants to make them face the truth that they are not to seek other gifts. They are not to feel inadequate because they don’t have some showy gift and they are not to feel proud if they do. The way Paul does this is by presenting an analogy of a human body and then drawing out of it an application.
He says the body and the church are similar. Each is an organism with many parts, each is complete only when all those parts function, each part is unique and yet dependent. And when they don’t cooperate, there is chaos. That is his whole point here. The church is like a human body. Let’s look at his analogy, beginning in verse 12 and this will run all the way down to 26. And then in 27, he shifts gears and makes the application. We’ll get to that further part of it next week.
The analogy: Now Paul develops his analogy along four lines: Unity, diversity, sovereignty, and harmony. First of all, unity. He is going to discuss the body from the standpoint of its unity. Look at verses 12 and 13, and I’d footnote by saying our last study covered these two in detail, so we’ll just allude to them. “For as the body is one” – that’s the human body – “and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are still one body, so is Christ” – or so is the church. In other words, the church is like a body. It’s one and yet it is many. It’s unity and yet it’s diversity. He goes further to illustrate this by saying, “For by one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Greeks, bond or free, we’ve all been made to drink one Spirit.” Now the point is very simple: A body is one and yet has many members. The church is one and yet has many members. And our unity is emphasized because we have all been placed into one body by one Spirit and made to drink one Spirit. We are born of one Spirit; we are placed into one body by baptism with one Spirit; we are indwelt by one Spirit. No wonder Paul, in Ephesians 4:3, says we have the unity of the Spirit. We are all one. We have the common life of God in our souls. The Spirit of God lives in us. We have aiōnios zōē – eternal life. We have that life pulsing through all of us; we are all one.
In Ephesians chapter 2, just reminding you of a Scripture you might be familiar with, verse 15 says – Ephesians 2:15 – “That He has made in Himself” – that is Christ, by virtue of His death – “He has made in Himself of two” – that is of Jew and Gentile – “one new man.” He took Jew and Gentile and made them into one new man. The new there is not neos – new in time, but kainos– new in quality. A new kind of man, a new kind of existence, a new thing. Verse 16, “And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body.” One body. Ephesians 4:4, “There is one body, one Spirit . . . one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, above all, through all, and in you all.” And so the emphasis here also is one. In Galatians 3:28, neither male nor female, bond nor free, Jew or Gentile, we’re one in Christ. Romans 10:12 and 13, the same thing, there is oneness. Paul says we are fellow citizens, fellow partakers, fellow members, fellow heirs.
And you’ll recall the words of Jesus, I’m sure, in His high priestly prayer in John 17. He says in verse 20, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also who shall believe on Me through their word; that they all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in Me and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me. And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them, that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one.” Jesus says, “I want them to be one. I want them to be one. I want them to be one.” The Holy Spirit comes on Pentecost, and we are one. And Jesus’ prayer is answered positionally. So it is then that Jesus wanted this unity. That the Spirit of God then brought about that unity and we are one body.
Now listen to this. There are no spiritual loners. There are no outside people. There are no hangers-on. There are no drifters. There are no spectators. We are one. You have the life of God pulsing through you as I do through me. You are as vital to the organism as any limb of a human body is vital to that body. There aren’t any degrees of importance. There aren’t any degrees of responsibility in terms of more significant, less significance. There are all equal, spiritual necessities. We are an organism, and an organism depends for its total life on every single part, no matter how minute it is.
So get the picture of the church. We’re not an organization. We’re not a business. We’re not a group of people who just come and watch what happens happen while the paid professionals do their thing. We’re a living cell; we are an organism. We’re a community of people who live and breathe the same air. We’re citizens of the same Kingdom, members of the same family, a bride for the same bridegroom, sheep of the same flock, branches on the same vine, and the best of all, members of the same body. And you’re just as important as me, and I am just as important as you. And there’s never any other way to look at it.
And there’s no real reason for you to come and say, “Well I don’t matter. I can kind of hang loose on the fringe. I’m not really a part.” Oh, yes you are. If the life of God lives in your soul by the presence of the Spirit of God, you are vital. And if you are not a part, actively and practically, of what’s happening, the body is crippled. You say, you can’t really mean I’m that important. Well that’s what God is trying to say to you. Maybe you don’t understand how important you are because you never tried to fulfill your importance, so you never saw what could be done. And so the basic unity underlies the body and its function.
Now let’s go to the second thought, and that is diversity. Unity and diversity. You know, unity demands diversity. You know the auto plant over here? It’s a Chevrolet plant. I was thinking about that the other day. You know, what would happen if, in the Chevrolet plant, where they assemble those cars, all the people got together and they had a big labor meeting and they came and they announced to the management, “We are united. We have solved our problems. We are of one mind, and we have an announcement to make. There is such unity in this plant that we have all decided, without any dissent, that we are all going to screw on rear taillights.” Management would look around and say, “Would you run that by again? You’re all going to screw on rear” – You know what? There would not be anything to screw the rear taillight onto. In order for something to come putting off that assembly line that is one unit, there’s got to be diversity. Right?
The same thing is true of the body of Christ. God does not want a whole bunch of spiritual rubber ducks dropping out of some divine mold. There’s got to be distinction. Now look at verse 14, and that’s where Paul drops us into this concept, having stated the basic principle of unity, then he comes to diversity. “The body is not one member but” – what? – “many.” There have to be many different functions. And we’ve talked about the fact that every Christian is a spiritual snowflake. Haven’t we? There’s no two. You are unique; you are so gifted as to be essential to the body of Christ, as to be essential to a local community of believers who are the representation of that greater body in the local community. You are absolutely essential. Unity and diversity form the basic theme.
I gave you the illustration some years back of a football team. If they all came to the coach and announced, “Hey coach, we’ve had a meeting, and boy are we united! We’re all playing quarterback.” You don’t want 44 quarterbacks. But you know what, I look at some of these movements I see today, and I see 44 quarterbacks. I see seven thousand people screwing on rear taillights. And everybody saying, “If you don’t have that one, you haven’t arrived.” And so everybody’s chasing the same thing. And you know what happens? They’re not doing what they ought to be doing to make the body what God wants it to be. You know, they get a case of spiritual hydrocephalus; everybody is going to the head; everybody wants to be showy. I remember when I watched Flash Gordon and there was a race of people who were all head and no body. Remember that? Just a head sitting on a thing. I see that in the church today. Everybody running to be the head, get on the face, be an ear, an eye, where you can be seen, or a mouth, you can speak. See? Unity demands diversity. And we all have to do different things and listen.
This is precisely what was going on in the city of Corinth. Everybody was like mad trying to get the same gifts. Which ones? The showy ones. Look at verse 29. He says to them, “Oh man, is everybody supposed to be an apostle?” See? “Is everybody supposed to be a prophet? Is everybody supposed to be a teacher? Everybody supposed to work miracles? Everybody supposed to heal? Everybody speak with languages? Everybody interpret?” What’s the implied answer? “No, of course not.” But you’ll notice those are all the showy ones: Apostles, prophets, teachers, miracle workers, healers, speaking in languages. And you know what I see today? I see the church doing it all over again, the same thing that is being dealt with right here.
Paul’s point is clear: A body is one whole because it has all necessary, functioning parts. And we better operate or the body is not going to present properly the picture of Jesus Christ. I don’t know what your gifts are, but you ought to know how the Spirit of God uses you. You ought to be able somehow to define your ministries and be useful to God. And do you know what I see the church doing? A whole bunch of living, breathing members of an organism ministering, doing what they do. If you don’t do what you do, you really jam up the works. Can you imagine a body in rebellion, where you’re saying, “Go, hand,” and the hand says, “I’m not going anywhere”? You know? It happens in the church. And so we have to train a foot to do what the hand does, because there aren’t any hands to do it. We compensate. And one of the reasons I think the church gets organized is it has to organize to do what it won’t do with the organism. You kind of get organized to bypass the carnal people, and that’s unfortunate. What you really ought to do is deal with the carnality instead of organizing around it. But diversity is not accidental. God isn’t up in heaven saying, “Oh, let’s see, I will throw a few gifts down there and see where they land.” No, it’s not accidental. It’s the very essence of the body. I think the way the church works, everybody with the area of ministry they’ve been given – and we’ve been through those gifts in detail. And if you weren’t here for that study, you really ought to listen to those tapes to get an understanding of that. Whatever your gift, you just begin to minister.
I remember about six or seven years ago, it was the first time that I had ever said it and it really kind of revolutionized our church. One day I said, “Look, if you’re waiting for this organization to give you a ministry, forget it. We aren’t going to give you one till you show us that you’re a faithful minister. So you better take your gift and take off and do something and go out and minister.” And one lady came to me and she said, “I have the gift of teaching, but I’ve checked and there are no openings in the primary department.” And I said, “Are there any kids in your neighborhood that age?” Oh, yes. “Teach them.” You mean, just go right out and teach them? “Go right out and teach them.” People say to me, “I feel that I have the gift of teaching, but I don’t have a class.” Do you know somebody that knows less than you? “Yeah.” Teach them.
And you know what happened? I’ll never forget what happened. Little by little, people began to minister and minister, and now we have a staff in our church of somewhere – I don't know how many exactly. We were trying to figure it out the other day. But a ministering staff – it changes, you know. But anyways, somewhere between 22 and 25 ministering pastoring people, and every one of them has come out of the congregation. Every one. Why? People developed a ministry, God touched their life, blessed their ministry. Their ministry grew to the place where we wanted to support that ministry. That’s the way it goes. See? And then the body is functioning.
And then you’re saying to people, “Hey, you be faithful at this level and God will be faithful to put you in the place of strategic service.” Minister. You’re a living part of this thing. This isn’t a spectator – you say, well why do you get up there and talk at us? Listen, all I’m doing is giving you the input so you can minister. This is feeding time. I am trying to pour in some fuel that you can thrive on. We provide a – you know, Grace is kind of a spiritual smorgasbord. We don’t expect everybody to come and to everything. We don’t say, “If you don’t come on Wednesday night, that’s a vote against prayer.” We don’t say that. If you don’t have a Bible study, “You’re against the Bible.” No. I’ve heard preachers say that. All we say is, “Hey, it’s all here, and if you want to take advantage of it, we’re just going to try to feed you what you need to develop a ministry that God can bless, a ministry within the body of Christ.” And a believer who doesn’t have a ministry is a contradiction. I mean, it’s a contradiction. You’re denying God the right to use you the way He has gifted and prepared you to be used. So diversity is no accident. You have unity and diversity.
All right, the third thing. The third term that I want to discuss in the passage is sovereignty, and for this one I’m going to skip from verse 18, 24 to 28, those three verses. We’ll fill in the gaps next week. But the third reality in his analogy is sovereignty, and people, this is really potent. Verse 18, “But now has God set the members, every one of them, in the body, as it has” – what? – “pleased Him.” Now listen to this – sovereignty. Paul turns to the One who created the body. And by implication in his analogy, you can prove once and for all that Paul was not an evolutionist. He believed God created the body, as well as the church, by virtue of the statement in reference to the analogy. “But now has God set the members.” God designed every member. God did not put out a monotonous line of uniform Christians, but He put out a group of people who were one and yet every single one was unique.
The word set, you see, there in verse 18 – “God has set” – that is the act of divine appointment. Just like God planned the physical body with all its parts, so He planned the church. You have the gifts you have – do you know why? – because you are exactly what God wanted you to be, minus your sin. Exactly. Now does that give you a sense of divine dignity? And instead of running around saying, “Well why didn’t I get this gift?” or, “Why don’t I have this – I’m going to seek for this gift or tarry for that” – why don’t you just be content with the way God has given you and get in your mind the sense of divine dignity that God has granted to you. Unparalleled dignity to every part of the body. “God has set the members.” How many of them? Every one of them, all of them, “In the body as it pleased Him.” When you aren’t content with your gift, you are rebelling and acting selfishly against the sovereign and supreme will of God. You are like the imaginary antagonist in Romans 9 saying to the potter, “Why did you make me like this?” Instead of saying, “God, I just want to thank You for making me like this, so that I can minister in a way that is necessary for the body.”
Listen, the dignity in the body of Christ doesn’t belong to the people with the showy gifts. The dignity in the body doesn’t belong to the people who are up front. The dignity in the body belongs to every member, because every one of you is what he is, is what she is by the very sovereign will of God. Now get hold of that. You are that spiritual snowflake. You are that marvelous one that God has made out of all the world of men to be what you are and to be it in His body for His glory and the blessing of the other saints. I think sometimes we think the only people who are important are the ones up front. No. I think if the people up front really think, they know that the people who are important are the people who are behind the scenes creating the opportunity for somebody to get up front. You with your gift are God’s masterpiece. That’s right. “As it has pleased Him.”
Beloved, just this footnote, it says, “As it has pleased Him.” Please remember this: A Christian does not select his own gift. You don’t have any part in that; God does that. Do you realize what kind of chaos you’ve got if everybody’s running around seeking their own gifts? Do you think you can organize the entire body of Christ? God had to do that. And for me to question and feel inferior or for me to feel superior is ridiculous. There is a sense of dignity in every individual believer. You have been not only created in Christ Jesus, but placed within you is a marvelous capacity to minister to the body of Christ and to God Himself. And you ought to get a grip on that lofty dignity. I think that it is terrible when some Christians aren’t content with what God has given them as a ministry and they’re proudly pursuing something more showy.
There is never a single command in the Bible to seek a spiritual gift. Never. You say, oh, what about chapter 14 verse 13, “Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy.” Listen, is brethren singular or plural? It’s plural. Plural brethren, many of you, all of you. What is he saying? He is saying, “When you as a church come together and meet together, seek to see the gift of prophecy used. Don’t forbid languages, because God may want to use that if there are some unbelieving Jews there. But seek to prophesy.” He’s not saying to an individual, “Go seek the gift of prophecy.” He is saying to the Corinthian assembly, “Brothers, when you come together collectively, seek that prophecy be exalted. Let’s get some teaching going on in there.” That isn’t an individual command to a Christian to seek the gift of prophecy. You can’t seek a gift. And we’ll talk about 12:31, which is another verse you hear used along that line, next week. I think you’ll see something very interesting about that verse when we get into it.
So there’s no place for discontent. There’s no place for selfishness. There’s no place for conceit. In Hebrews chapter 2 verse 4, you have the same word. It says, “God bearing them witness with signs and wonders and diverse miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit” – listen – “according to His own will.” It’s always that way. The gifts are always according to His own will. Chapter 12 verse 11 of Corinthians, “Dividing to every man severally as He will.” Verse 18, “God has set the members as it has pleased Him.” The gifts, beloved, are all up to the sovereign will of God. In Romans 12:3, he says, “Look, you’ve been given gifts according as God has dealt out the measure of faith.” God saved us. God placed us in the body with certain gifts. And he says to the Corinthians, “Quit chasing the showy ones.” All you’re doing – now listen to me – if you chase a gift you don’t have, will you get it? No. What will you get? A counterfeit. Believe me, you’ll just get a counterfeit. And we see a lot of that today.
But there’s a next step, and I love it, verse 24. It’s just a very beautiful thought. Verse 24, skipping that first line, because we’re going to get into verse 24 next time in detail, but look at the second line right after the semicolon in my Bible. It says, “But God” – do you see it? “But God has tempered the body together.” Just that much. Now listen to this: See the word tempered there. The Greek is mixed together – mixed together. It’s a term used of mixing colors, an artistic term. Mixing colors – a beautiful thought. Listen – harmonious blending. Listen to this now: God not only chooses the gifts for you, but He mixes you in with the right people, so that the right combination will work in the right location. Is that fantastic? You say, why am I at Grace Church? Because God mixed you in here for a ministry. Imagine it this way. Remember our illustration, we had a palette, and we said on the palette were primary colors. Right? And those primary colors represented the gifts of the Spirit, the permanent edifying gifts of the Spirit, like giving and mercy and teaching and prophesying and whatever, those primary gifts. And we said that when the Spirit of God goes to make up your gift, He takes a little bit from these in different combinations and mixes a color that comes out you and nobody else. Remember that? We went through the Scripture on that. So that your unique. When He gets your color together, that’s just you, and you’re a combination of many gifts or many areas of giftedness.
But watch this. The analogy goes a step further right here. Once He’s got you the color He wants you to be, then He transfers you over to the canvas of the church in the spot He wants you to be right next to the other colors that ought to be what they ought to be. So that when it’s all said and done, everybody’s in the right spot. And when the picture is finished, you know who it’s a picture of? Christ. See? You’re not only the right color, but you’re the right color in the right place. Isn’t that a beautiful concept? God not only gifts you, but He mixes you into the body in just the right place. Can you imagine some color up there saying, “I’m going to fade. I’m going to run. Take that. I’m going to drip all over the guy next to me,” or, “I refuse to be a color”? Well you know what happens? Then when the portrait is held up before the world, what do they see? Kind of hard to tell. I’m not sure they really know. Think of it like that. You’re a combination of the primary colors made to be a gifted individual like no other. And God wants to put you right on the canvas, and you are strategic. Because if you’re not there, part of the portrait is gone, and if part of the portrait is gone here and part is gone here and part is gone here and part is gone there, the world looks at the canvas that is the church and can’t really see too well what it is that they’re trying to say. It’s sad and it’s selfish and it’s inconsistent when we rebel and the portrait of Christ is lost. So the choosing of the gifts, the mixing is God’s work.
Now verse 28, and the third verse related to this thought of sovereignty, says this, “And God has set some in the church, first apostles, second prophets, and third teachers.” Stop there. Again, you have the same term that was in verse 18, “God has set.” Here’s divine appointment. Now listen to this. This is beautiful. In addition to the gifts and in addition to the blending of the gifts, He brings gifted men who lead the church, who direct. You know that when I studied a little bit of the life of da Vinci and a little bit of Michelangelo and some other artists – I used to read some in their writings and about them. Did you know that many of them had artists who worked for them? And they would do the basic thing, and the artist would come along and under their direction fill in here and there and touch up things. The Holy Spirit is the artist, and He puts us on the canvas in the right place, but He’s got some helpers who come in, and that’s the gifted men. And God has given to the church, according to Ephesians chapter 4 verse 11, apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teaching shepherds. And their job is to perfect the saints, to make those colors as vivid and as bright and as beautiful as they can, so that the portrait of Christ is clear. And again, that is God’s calling, and God chooses those men and those women who do the things that need to be done in the area of responsibility and leadership.
When the Lord Jesus came to earth, the first thing He did was to choose out twelve men. Right? When one of them defected, he, through the selection process in Acts chapter 1, chose Matthias. And later on He chose Paul, and Paul says himself, “I had nothing to do with it. I was going to Damascus. The next thing I knew, I was in the ministry.” And when God wanted two missionaries to go to the Gentile world, the Holy Spirit dropped off in Antioch and said, “Separate unto Me Paul and Barnabas to the work which I have called them to do.” So it is that it’s God’s sovereignty that chooses the leadership. It’s God’s sovereignty that selects those who shall be the gifted men to assist the Holy Spirit in making the portrait all that it should be. And we have to recognize, beloved, that we’re in a body and that that body is one, and we’re a part of that oneness. And we must sense that, because we have the life of the Spirit in us like everybody else, and he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. We’re all in it together.
But yet there’s diversity, and every one of us is unique and we are exactly what God made us to be. And there’s a tremendous dignity in that. You are not an accident. You were planned before the foundation of the world to be you. And you are to use what you are, and you are to realize that this is God’s plan. Not to chase something you don’t have, not to be something you can’t be, but to say, “God, if this is what I am, I sense this is because You wanted it so. I sense the dignity that’s in that. I’ll minister for You.”
You know, we should never have movements. We should never have movements after certain things. But when we have them, they always go to the showy things. Have you ever heard of a giving movement? The church is going through a giving movement. Everyone’s seeking the gift of giving? Or a helps movement? In the history of the church, there’s never been a helps movement. Or a showing mercy movement. No. What you have is a tongues movement or a healing movement. Right? You see, all it does is create chaos, because God has put it all together in the way He wants it. And when God says it, that’s the way it ought to be.
There was an umpire – and I’ll close with this, There was an umpire in the major leagues named of Bill Clem. He was an interesting guy, and one day he was umpiring an important game. A guy on third base – guy at bat hit a deep fly to left field. The left fielder went way back, caught the ball. He had a shotgun arm. He rifled the ball home as the guy from third broke for the plate. Perfect throw – one hop. The catcher got there, caught the ball. The guy hit the dirt. The ball, the catcher, the runner all hit the plate at the same time, dust flying everywhere. And the umpire hesitated in his decision till the dust cleared. And one bench screamed, “He’s out. He’s out.” The other, “Safe. He’s safe! He’s safe.” And Bill Clem turned around and looked at both of them and said, “He ain’t nothin’ till I call it!” You want to know something? God looks at us and says, “You ain’t nothin’ till I call it.” But when He has called it, then you are something. And the something that you are is the something He wanted you to be, and it’s desperately needed by the rest of us. Let’s pray.
Thank You , Father, for our time this morning again in Your Word and how rich it is. Thank You for the good fellowship in the body. I thank You for the area in which You’ve gifted me and all those beloved ones here. Thank You that all of us are so dependent on each other. We just couldn’t do it alone. Give us a sense of that dignity that comes with knowing we’re made of You, and You have called it, and we’re something. That something needs to be used for Your glory.
And Lord, if there are some people here who have never come to Jesus Christ and don’t know what it is to have a sense of being called of God, of being connected to the divine purpose of the ages, who don’t understand what it is to have forgiveness of sin, to have eternal life, to have pulsing in them the life of God, I pray that this morning that You’d somehow draw them to Jesus Christ. For the rest of us, Father, that we would be again committed to the truths of the Word that we’ve heard this morning, to know that Your church is our church, and that You’ve got to be the biggest gambler who ever lived when You bank on us to fulfill it and make the portrait of Christ clear. Help us to be faithful. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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