There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)
In Christ's body there are generally many gifts; some have more while others have less; some use them to build up, while others use them to tear down; and there are those who don't even know that they have a gift, or perhaps they just sit in the church void of a real understanding what to do with the gift they have received. Sometimes they are a blessing, while other times they cause a lot of pain the body of Christ; which is why it is very important to have a correct understanding of the gifts. The apostle Paul's desire was that we do not remain ignorant in regard to spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:1). The Greek word Paul used for "ignorant" was the word "agnoeo", meaning without discernment or understanding. It is my desire that we all gain understanding and have discernment of the gifts and their use so that Christ's body will be healthy and effective.
1. THE GIFTS, MINISTRIES, AND THEIR ACTIVITIES IN CHRIST'S BODY ARE DIFFERING, BUT THEY HAVE THE SAME SPIRIT
"There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all." (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)
The problem we face today is a misunderstanding of differences in Christ's body. The fact that people are different is logical because the body is made up of varying parts. This is why Paul said that that the gifts, ministry, and activities are different, but have the same Spirit. This is what is important - there are differences, but the same Spirit. What is ideal is that the church has a passion for the Lord and His kingdom and yet be of one spirit, but where the gifts, ministry and activities are concerned, uniformity doesn't work. If a body is made up of only a leg, an arm or a head it is a monster. In the same way, if we emphasize only certain things without balance toward one another, the body grows immature.
In Corinth, as in many churches today, rather than allowing the gifts, ministries, and activities to serve in building up and unifying the body, they tore down the body. We know this by what happened in the Corinthian church.
God's gifts became a symbol of spiritual strength, causing rivalry, and rather than being for the good of all, some considered themselves more "spiritual" than others because of their use of certain gifts (such as speaking in other tongues). We can agree that this is a wrong attitude because the primary application, purpose and final goal of God's gifts are for building up the body, not dividing it, so that it is more effective.
If we are not careful in our use of the gifts, rather than creating unity we can bring division to the body because of our insensitivity to those around us. Spiritual gifts ought not to be used to manipulate others or for our own interest, rather they ought to be used primarily for the interest of the whole body.
Paul told us that there are "diversities (Greek: diairesis) of gifts". This Greek word indicates diversity in sharing separate gifts, which means that the Holy Spirit doesn't just give diversity, but also gives certain gifts to certain people. He doesn't give everyone the same thing. In other words, in Christ's body there is diversity of gifts although there is the same Spirit, which means that individuals can have gifts that others do not have. This doesn't automatically mean that something is wrong with certain parts of the body; it simply means that we all do not possess the same gift but that we have the same Spirit of God.
Paul went on to say that not only are the gifts differing, but that there is also diversity of ministry. The Greek word Paul used here for "ministry" is diakonia, which means ministering. The word carries in itself a connotation of sympathy toward needs in the Christian community. Paul and Luke used this word in the book of Acts when they described those who are called to preach and serve in churches. Paul said that in Christ's body there are varying kinds of service according to the needs, but there is still the "same Lord", indicating the unity and purpose of the gifts.
Apart from varying gifts and ministry, Paul goes on to the say that we also have varying activities. The Greek word Paul used for activities is energema, a word from which we also receive the word "energy". This word in the New Testament is only used in one place, that is in this verse 1 Corinthians 12:6. The word describes the result of God's strength in believers and we can translate the word as activities - which are strengthened by God's mercy.
So, in Christ's body we have a variety of activities. People cannot all have the same kind of work, activity, or results that are strengthened by God. What does this mean? It means that those in Christ's body are not driven by communism or uniformity of gifts, ministries or activities because everything is different; just as those in Christ's body are different, so are their works. Not everyone can have the same kind of workings. They may possibly have the same kind of passion or unity, but not necessarily the same kind of workings. This is why we must recognize and confess that all of these gifts, ministries, and activities are not selfish and divided from the body because they are of Spirit, one Lord, and "the same God who works all in all" (1 Corinthians 12:6)
Paul goes on to explain that these manifestations of the Spirit are given to every man "for the profit of all". Therefore, no believer in the body of Christ lacking a gift by the Lord; possibly some do not practice their gifts or are not aware that they have one. Unfortunately, today we have created a church as a religion, so the gifts and ministry appear as if they belong to the minority in the church, while the rest have only one gift: passively observing and criticizing. The reason being a lack of understanding that God is the One who gives gifts, that God is the One who gives diversity of ministry and activities, and all for the profit of the whole body, not for the profit of an individual to look "cool", for financial gain, or to be spiritually elevated above the rest. When Paul said that Spirit is given to each for the profit of all, he used the Greek word sumpheri, which means to bring together, meaning to offer something for the good of the community. These gifts, ministries, and activities ought to bring a profit to the body, not problems - as what took place in the Corinthian church due to a wrong understanding of their function.
Paul goes on to use an example of gifts. I must emphasize that this is not a comprehensive list of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, because we find more gifts listed in Romans and Ephesians. "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, [let us use them]: if prophecy, [let us prophesy] in proportion to our faith; or ministry, [let us use it] in [our] ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness." (Romans 12:6-8) "And He Himself gave some [to be] apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." (Ephesians 4:11-12)
"For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another [different] kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills." (1 Corinthians 12:8-11)
Therefore, there are gifts, ministry, and activities, but one Spirit and one Lord Jesus Christ!
2. THE BODY HAS MANY PARTS BUT ONE SPIRIT
"For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also [is] Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and have all been made to drink into one Spirit." (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)
Paul goes on to compare Christ's body with the human body. Each part of the body has a specific function that is vital to the body for it to function as a whole. These parts are differing in their purpose and status, and yet in their diversity they must work together. "Whether Jew or Greek, slave or free". Today in the modern context we could say, "Whether Serbian or Croatian, working class or intellectual".
As Christians we must avoid two common mistakes. The first being that we are sometimes too proud of our abilities, and the other being that we assume we have nothing to give to the body of believers. Tension arises when we begin compare ourselves among ourselves rather than using our varying gifts together to share the Good News to the lost, or serve our local body.
The church is made up of diverse people from varying backgrounds with many differing gifts, ministries, and abilities. It is very easy to allow these differences to divide, such as in the case of the Corinthian church where some believers viewed possessing spiritual gifts as something elite and special, and therefore elevated many individuals above others because of certain gifts, while other gifts were viewed us unnecessary and unspiritual and consequently split the body.
In what way did they split the body? They simply viewed those with lesser gifts, lesser efficiency, or lesser ministries as unnecessary. This is why Paul emphasized once more that all parts of the body are needed for the whole body to function, and not just certain parts. "If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,' is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,' is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body [were] an eye, where [would be] the hearing? If the whole [were] hearing, where [would be] the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where [would] the body [be]? But now indeed [there are] many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you'; nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you.' No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those [members] of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable [parts] have greater modesty, but our presentable [parts] have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that [part] which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but [that] the members should have the same care for one another." (1 Corinthians 12:15-25)
If we suppose that our gift, ministry, or activity is more important than other gifts, ministries or activities then this is nothing more than an expression of spiritual pride. To look with disdain on those who appear less important is a sin. Why should we be jealous of those who have impressive gifts or ministries? Rather than being jealous, we should simply use the gifts that we have been given to encourage others to use theirs as well. If we are not doing this, the body of Christ will be less effective.
What kind of attitude do we have when other believers receive recognition? How do we respond to other's suffering? As the body we are called to "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." (Romans 12:15) Most often we are jealous of those who rejoice and apathetic toward those who weep. As believers we are surrounded by the world, which is why we call each other "brother" and "sister". There is no such thing as private or individual Christianity. We cannot stand still in our relationship with the Lord, but rather we ought to include other lives around us in that relationship with Him. "And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with [it]; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with [it]. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. [Are] all apostles? [Are] all prophets? [Are] all teachers? [Are] all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way." (1 Corinthians 12:26-31)
When Paul told us to desire the best gifts, he used the Greek word kreisson, which speaks about gifts that are greater and better in strength and more profitable for Christ's body. Prior to this, Paul had already explained that no gift is better than another gift, ministry, or activity. Paul is simply encouraging the Corinthians to discover how to serve others in Christ's body with the gifts that they have received from the Lord, with no thought of themselves but only to serve God and others in the body. What they were missing in their use of the gifts and service was love.
Love is more important that all of the spiritual gifts in Christ's body, because signs and wonders bring little benefit if there is no love. Actually, love is stronger than our woks and makes our gifts more useful. While people have varying gifts, love is given to all. This is why Paul said, "And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these [is] love." (1 Corinthians 13:13)
In morally depraved Corinth, love was mingled with a variety of other meanings and did not have it's own value. This is why people today are confused when we speak about love. Love is the greatest human virtue and attribute of God. The Apostle John told us that "God is love". (1 John 4:8b) Love serves others unselfishly and goes on to prove its true compassion. Faith is the foundation and contains God's message; hope is the attitude and focus, while love is the action. When faith and hope are in place, we are free to love because we understand that God is love.
3. GIFTS ARE ABUNDANT IN BUILDING THE CHURCH
"Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual [gifts], [let it be] for the edification of the church [that] you seek to excel." (1 Corinthians 14:12)
With regard to spiritual gifts in general, there is nothing wrong in desiring them, but we must remember that we ought not to desire them in order to be better than those around us, or to exalt ourselves above others. We must first and foremost desire them to build the church - Christ's body.
Why did Paul speak about this? If we go back to the 14th chapter, we can see that Paul had an increasing problem with the use of gift of speaking in tongues because the believers in Corinth viewed this gift as a sign of spiritual superiority, but did not use it for the purpose of unity. "Pursue love, and desire spiritual [gifts], but especially that you may prophesy. For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands [him]; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies [is] greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification." (1 Corinthians 14:1-4)
Therefore, spiritual gifts are only useful when they are correctly used, and when they help those in the church. We do not use spiritual gifts to make ourselves feel good, but to serve alongside others and to make others feel good as well.
The Apostle Paul spoke about the gift of tongues because he wanted to bring things in order. Although he praised this gift saying that in and of itself was a good gift, he encouraged the other gifts more because they served the body more, such as prophecy in the context of preaching under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Without going into great detail, the point of the gifts is to first of all serve others where needed. This is why he said, "I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue." (1 Corinthians 14:18-19)
To sum it all up - gifts, ministries, and activities - for the good of all, not just those who use them, in plenty and in love, yet respectful and in order. Gifts are for women and for men, without exception, but used in order and decorum.
The verses Paul wrote at the end of chapter 14 in regard to women in public services are not in the context that women ought to be silent in the church, rather they deal with order and disorder. The problem with the church in Corinth wasn't with women in general, as a sex, but with married women who did not wait to ask their husbands for clarity on certain matters, nor did they control their emotions in public services.
In that day, the responsibility was on the husbands to restrain their wives during the service, to bring them under control, so that there was order in public meetings, without disturbance. This does not mean that women in general are not to speak or teach in the church.
Men and women ought to earnestly seek for spiritual gifts, and use them with order and decorum for the benefit of all. "Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues." (1 Corinthians 14:39)
Varying gifts, one Spirit; varying ministries, one Lord; varying activities, but on God who works all in all!