Bacon and eggs. Peanut butter and jelly. Chips and salsa. Oreos and milk. French fries and ketchup.
Some things are just better together.
God designed the church to be better together. The church is best when it is working together. Like a healthy human body, every part performs its own function for the good of the whole. That’s how it is supposed to work.
Unity does not mean uniformity. Each believer is uniquely gifted and those gifts serves a different function in the church family. But every one is a gift of the same Spirit and designed, not for the glory of the individual member of the church, but for the good of the whole.
The Corinthian church was a highly gifted church. But they did properly use their gifts. Like a dozen musicians each having mastered a different instrument, the Corinthians gathered not to perform a harmonious symphony, but to outperform one another and argue about which instrument was the best. They showed up to show off! Paul encourages them to be united in spite of their differences.
In 1 Corinthians 12:1-13, we reasons a church family Christians should be united.
1 – We confess the same Lord.
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. (1 Corinthians 12:1-3)
Some curse the Lord Jesus. This action reveals their true spiritual condition. Regardless of a person’s profession, if they deny the Lordship of Christ they are not a true believer. No one can deny the Lordship of Jesus and be a true Christian. The ultimate criteria of the Holy Spirit’s activity is the exaltation of Jesus as Lord. The Lordship of Jesus unites believers.
2 – We depend on the same God.
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. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
The tri-une God is involved in every aspect of the church ministry. We are totally dependent on God. Spiritual gifts are distributed by the Holy Spirit, the position is assigned by Jesus, and the effectiveness is controlled by God the Father.
3 – We minister to the same body.
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. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)
A believer’s spiritual gifts are not for personal pleasure. They are given by God to serve His church. We can discover several lists of spiritual gifts in Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and in 1 Corinthians 12. The total is 21 separate gifts but may not be exhaustive. No one has them all but everyone has at least one. They can be classified as speaking, serving, and sign gifts. Many, including myself, believe the sign gifts have ceased their usefulness now that we have the inspired, written Word of God. Regardless, the gifts are used to build the local church, serve greater family of God, and reach the world for Jesus Christ.
4 – We have experienced the same baptism.
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)
All believers have experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a spiritual experience where a change of identity occurs in the life of the believer – we belong to Christ’s body. This is not to be confused with the filling of the Holy Spirit. The filling is a constant surrender to the control of the Holy Spirit – our bodies belong to Christ. All believers may not be part of the same church, but we are part of the same body of Christ. In order to accomplish His work on earth, Jesus had a body of flesh and blood. In order to accomplish His work today, Jesus has a body that consists of living human beings – the local church.
We can do more together. Though believers are different, we can use our unique contribution to make us better together. Like a sports team or family, life is better when we serve as one. Rather than identifying what divides Christians, my hope is that we will magnify what we have in common.