The Church: God’s Strange Assortment

As a diabetic, I need to watch what I eat. I now read labels, examining protein amounts, carbohydrate and fibre amount to see if this food item fits into a healthier lifestyle. One of my favourite things to eat though does not fit into this category. One of my favourite treats is licorice allsorts. Now many people do not like them because they are primarily black licorice, but for me, the variety of different coloured sugars and the harsh licorice flavour makes them almost irresistible. They say variety is the “spice of life” and eating licorice allsorts adds to that experience for me.

In God’s church, I have had the privilege to experience an assortment of different churches. Some I was privileged to pastor and others I was invited in to share from the Word of God. Some had impressive facilities, growing numbers, impressive programs and vast resources. They had staff and programs that rivaled any organization, church or business. Other churches were less fortunate. They struggled to pay the utility bills, provide for staff, and maintain their property. On the surface, these two congregational profiles could not be more different. Although in many ways they are strikingly different, they are also remarkably similar.

Regardless of how they looked on the outside, all these churches shared a common association… they were a part of God’s greater Church. In essence, they are each owned by God and exist for God. Each one attempts to serve Him in their context. There are the inner city ministries, the subdivision churches, the ethnic churches, and rural churches. Each type of church, regardless of denomination affiliation, reminds me again of how wonderful our God is, and how He has assembled within the Church all of the gifts that we need.

In 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, Paul writes, “Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Regardless of a church’s situation, God does something remarkable and mysterious. He provides the gifts and people to accomplish His work. I can think of many churches with very limited financial resources that still seem to find ways to maintain their witness within the community and do amazing things for God. He gives them the right people with the right gifts for that moment. I have seen this truth evidenced so consistently through the years that I now know it is not coincidental. God provides for his Church.

One of the churches Paul ministered to had everything, yet they lacked unity to put all the things God had given them to honour God. That church was located in Corinth.

It is astonishing that the church in Corinth existed at all. This was a church filled with infighting. Everyone thought they were more important than everyone else. The church at Corinth is widely recognized as one that was highly dysfunctional and misguided. Much of their problem circulated over the gifts of the Spirit. Rather than allowing the Spirit of God to direct and empower the church, people wanted the church to run and function their way and chaos prevailed.

Paul’s directive insisted that the church seek clarity of conviction and purpose. At the heart of Paul’s argument was a simple premise: those empowered and directed by the Spirit of God are those who confess Jesus Christ as Lord. The church at Corinth was being called back to its primary loyalty and allegiance. The conflict had manifested itself in such hideous ways. This is evidenced by the theological chaos that led some to be confused about the person of Jesus Christ. Paul reprimands and urges the church to recognize that in the midst of competing spirits and ideologies, there is one Spirit within the Body of Christ.

One of the clear issues at stake in Corinth involved the matter of spiritual gifts. With a developing understanding of the work of the Spirit within the believer, some evidently believed that their gifts were superior to those of others. Paul then lists the great assortment of gifts that God invests in the midst of his church. By listing this assortment of gifts, Paul tries to remind the church that gifts are not given for personal benefit but rather for the “common good.” These gifts are to empower the church to do God’s work in the world. All the gifts are of value and importance. No one is to think that his or her gift is of greater value than that of others. It is for that reason that Paul clarifies the importance of the body over the individual. The individual gifts are given out for the benefit of the greater good. Spiritual gifts are not for personal benefit; they are by God and or God.

The gifts, though assorted and unique, originate from one source, the Spirit of God. This is where the church at Corinth was so badly misguided. Although they evidently tried to do so, there was no way they could muster godly power out of their human strength and initiative. The power in the church belongs to God, and that power is evidenced through the different gifts he invests in the people but also through how He then uses those gifts to His glory.

Sadly, the church at Corinth is not much different than many churches today. We often mistakenly confuse human abilities and goals with the gifts of God’s Spirit. We place different worth or determine which gifts are better than others. The result was gross corruption, horrible sins, and a blatant disregard for the things of God. You might think that after two thousand years, we would have learned our lesson from the Corinthian debacle. God’s Spirit grants us power, not prestige. It is not about us… it never was, and it never will be. Rather, it is about God working in and through us for His glory and our good.


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