(This sermon was part of our annual Commissioning Service, when we thank last year’s church officers and pray over the new year’s church officers.)
It’s easy to mistakenly think that our official volunteers are the most important part of our church. But as we’ll see in 1 Corinthians 12 and 13, this isn’t the case.
We are commissioned together.
4There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
7Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10to 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.11All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
12Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13For 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. 14Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. (1 Corinthians 12:4-14)
Paul doesn’t write that we should be united. He writes that we are united. The problem with division in the church is that it is a contradiction in terms. We are united whether we like it or not. Just like a human body, when one member becomes disjointed from the others, there is constant pain because he or she is connected with all the other members.
This means that you are necessary to the body. All parts are essential. In our church it is common for members to drop out of the fellowship for long stretches of time. I suspect this is because they think they are expendable–that the church will go on fine without them. But there are no expendable parts of a church body, just like there are no expendable parts of your physical body. We need each other because we are united.
We are commissioned as many.
15Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many parts, but one body. (1 Corinthians 12:14-20)
Though we are united, we are diverse. Each individual is uniquely designed with a distinct function. So the question to consider here is, what’s your function?
Paul mentions several Spiritual gifts in this chapter:
The church is a human-spiritual Swiss Army Knife. What sort of blade are you? Have you found your function in the church? What can you do to discover it?
We are commissioned to love.
1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;6it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)
Love is the church’s cargo. Without love, the church is empty, no matter how full the calendar and pews.
Love is what endures. All our other endeavors will prove childish when we see perfection at Christ’s return, like looking back at your childhood drawings or writings. But love endures. When we love, we are acting like spiritual adults. This means that my best sermon, if preached without love, is puny compared to your most awkward act motivated with love.
We are commissioned as one and as many. We are commissioned first and foremost to love.
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. How many times does Paul refer to the underlying unity of the church? (i.e. references to “the same Spirit,” or “the common good,” etc.)
- How do you feel the Spirit has gifted you to serve in the church?
- What Spiritual gifts do you sense in the others in your group?
- Are there any people in the church who seem to exhibit specific Spiritual gifts?
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-13. What keeps Christians from experiencing their unity with other Christians within the church (not Dulin’s Grove specifically, but the church in general)?
- Now tackle Dulin’s Grove specifically. What are some things that sometimes hinder our experience of unity?
- How can we work toward a deeper experience of our unity in Christ as a church? What are some practical steps we can take as individuals? As a House to House group? As a church?
- Discuss 1 Corinthians 12:14-20. What sort of people in the church might be tempted to say, “Because I am not a ____, I do not belong to the body.”
- Discuss 1 Corinthians 12:21-26. What does Paul mean about the church when he writes about weaker members being indispensable and seemingly less honorable members receiving greater honor?
- Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. How can we guard against loveless (and thus worthless) ministry?
- Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 again. Which of these traits do you feel you most need to grow in? Share with the group if you’re comfortable doing so.
- Take some time to pray over these things.